The Philippines Will Remain the Same Unless We Shun Big Government and Government Dependency

Candidates

Ever notice that the campaign promises and platforms of our national candidates sound pretty much all the same? Basically they all promise a government that will provide pretty much everything under the sun for the people. From education to health care, candidates pretty much love to promise government nurturing from cradle to grave. I don’t really blame the candidates because this is what the majority of the electorate wants to hear. In a country where mendicancy is acceptable (and even coddled), its majority feel that they are entitled to such lofty promises. Instead of personal responsibility and accountability, most of the people want the big old government to provide them with pretty much all of their needs for nothing. Unless Filipinos start taking charge of their own lives and shun government dependency, the country will remain in the rut it is in. The candidates whose platforms involve the expansion of dole-outs and coddling of dependency are contributing to the continual stagnation of the Philippines. I believe it is high time to look at candidates who will inspire personal independence and achievement. We need someone who will strengthen the free market where people’s innovative talents are harnessed and used to make products and services better. We need a John F. Kennedy type of candidate who will encourage the citizens not to look for what the country can do for him but what he can do for his country instead.

Back in 2012 during the last US Presidential elections, the Obama campaign released an interesting interactive web advertisement. In it was a fictional character named Julia who is swaddled and subsidized throughout her life by an all-giving government. At every stage, the government provides all of her needs such as preschool classes, college loans, birth control, maternity care, business loans and retirement. Obama’s campaign suggests that it is the government’s role to step in and fill in the void for all of the people’s needs. This strikes me as very similar to what Vice President Jejomar Binay seems to be trying to sell to the electorate as he presents his case, from his stint in Makati, where the local government has provided perks to its citizens (especially the elderly) from free movie tickets, quality health care and education, to free birthday cakes. But as the saying goes:

“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”

I find it very disappointing not to see any of our current crop of candidates with the opposite message of promoting individual liberty and earned success. I long to see a candidate make the case that earned success is preferable to government dependency. I long to see a candidate encourage and promote independence and hard work as integral foundations of a free and economically thriving country. But perhaps this is just wishful thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against government providing for its people. I am, however, an advocate of very limited government that promote responsible behaviour and I am agreeable in paying for very basic things supported by the Constitution. So what does the constitution say about the role of our government? The Constitution states the following:

Section 4. The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people. The Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in the fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal, military or civil service.

Section 5. The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy.

Section 9. The State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all.

The constitution states that the government’s role is to promote general welfare and to come up with policies that provide adequate social services, to promote full employment and basically an improved quality of life for all. It doesn’t say that it will provide for everyone’s needs from cradle to crave although one can certainly argue that it is responsible for coming up with policies, at the very least, to promote access to all our needs. So when it comes to the military, police force, justice system, roads, bridges and other infrastructure, there is no objection there (although I would argue that the private sector can very well do a much better job in the production and maintenance of some infrastructure and public utilities). Tax collection to produce and maintain such things is justified. The objection lies not in government provided infrastructure but in the redistributionist taxation scheme (taking from the rich or the fully employed to provide for the poor) and in expanding entitlements. I certainly am not willing to pay for the contraceptives of someone making an individual sexual lifestyle choice. So I am against a giant and all-powerful controlling State that thinks that it is entitled to as much of my hard-earned money as it wants and can make policies it sees to impose with or without my consent. For the government, it is their way or the highway!

Now if you think about it, it isn’t too hard to see that the government is filled with this kind of attitude. Think of a time when you went to a government office such as the DFA (for passport application) or the NSO (for a copy of your birth certificate) or the LTO (for a driving exam). How do you feel about those experiences? Did you enjoy the long line-ups and the run-arounds? Did you enjoy all the hassle and did you feel that the people working in those offices were so concerned about the value of your time? Do you often enjoy the level of customer service you get from your government? No? Well, tough luck buddy! What do those people care? They are not going to lose their jobs for being rude or indifferent or slow. What are you going to do, go to another DFA or another NSO or another LTO? Those are the only designated offices to handle your needs!

ConservativeThis brings me to my next preference after small or limited government – the advantage of private businesses and free enterprise. Far from what many people think that businesses are run by those fat greedy bastards wearing those tall monopoly hats conspiring to screw the people in cigar smoke filled conference rooms, I think private enterprise is better than big government. Government through its taxation can take your money by force but businesses have to persuade you into buying their products or services. Dealing with a private business is a free will transaction. In a truly free market, competition is the driving force for persuasion. Through competition you can get better service, better quality, lower cost, and essentially better value for your money. If we are not satisfied with what we get from a private business we can always go to its competitor. You can’t do that with government offices and agencies.

Often times, the objection that I hear against private enterprise is that they make costs high. This is certainly the case for the people voicing their objection to the planned privatization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center. Often times we hear that it is immoral to mix profit and health care. But it is precisely this misplaced disdain for the motivation for profit that perpetuates our penchant for mediocrity. The pursuit of profit should not be looked at as a mortal sin. The pursuit of profit brings quality and innovation. You want free health care? Then you shouldn’t be complaining about having to wait a long time to receive treatment for a critical illness or having to put up with rude and incompetent staff. There shouldn’t be any complaints regarding dilapidated facilities and medical equipment that breaks down at a drop of a pen. Two months ago I underwent a kidney transplant operation at St. Luke’s Medical at the Bonifacio Global City. Granting that I paid through the nose, I still wouldn’t trade St. Luke’s to any other hospitals in the Philippines (or even in a lot of medical facilities in North America). What I got was top-notch care at a top-notch facility. If I dealt with a public facility such as the Philippine General Hospital or even the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, I’m sure I wouldn’t have received the same level and calibre of care I got from St. Luke’s. So it is really about getting what you pay for. And what’s more important than health?

When it is all said and done, my preference for small government and free enterprise is rooted on human nature itself – that humans are not perfect or perfectible. Contrary to what uber liberals think as they sing John Lennon’s song “Imagine”, I believe people really act on their selfish interest. Am I being too cynical and pessimistic? Well you may find it ironic that this very same belief acts as a check and balance against the accumulation of too much power in the hands of too few people. I want to keep more of my hard earned money so that the government can have little of my money to play with; I would rather not empower it too much to give it more control over my life.

Pretty much all the candidates are trumpeting “Change”. But without anyone advocating for personal responsibility, small government, and free market, I’m afraid we are just doomed to get more of the same. As I mentioned in my last article, it is not really about electing the “righteous” politicians to run our country. It is really about narrowing government responsibilities. It is absurd to think that the humongous government bureaucracy is going to identify and eliminate the waste in government. Every congressman or senator will argue that his or her two bit project worth millions or billions of pesos in pork will swear that the funds they are asking for is vital to the national interest. As long as the system is designed for a spend-it-or-lose-it type of budgeting, it doesn’t matter who sits in Malacanang or which party wields power. No one spends other people’s money as carefully as he spends his own. The key is to switch from non-competitive incentive structure of politics to the competitive incentives of the free market.

Now do tell, which current candidate shares my vision the closest?

Photos taken from cnnphilippines.com and pinterest.com

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Post Author: Hector Gamboa

Calling a spade, a spade...

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35 Comments on "The Philippines Will Remain the Same Unless We Shun Big Government and Government Dependency"

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ice cube
Guest
what makes you think that privitizing the NSO, LTO or DFA will make these institutions more efficient? we tried privitizing utilities and as we’ve seen that was and is an unmitigated disaster in a poor country highest electric bill in asia type way. well i may be miscasting your position. surely you would not oppose regulation of free markets by the state. how much of a free market are we talking about? free selling of drugs, people (damn the philippines is de facto already there) maybe it is not a big government or small government issue at all but a… Read more »
Hector Gamboa
Guest

By the way… I wasn’t suggesting that we privatize the LTO, DFA, and NSO. (Although I wish we could.) These agencies were given as examples to highlight a typical crappy experience we get when dealing with the government and we are not left with any choice but to merely suck it up. My inclination is that private businesses would produce better quality results because of competition. Of course, things would have to be under a truly free market system and not under crony capitalism.

Cezar
Guest
All this talking are good and a part of what’s needed in the Philippines, but you people are not seeing the root of all this problem….Not enough available jobssssss for the people…a lot of OFW,s why ???????can,t you people doesn’t see that ……why they look do jobs over seas in other countries…..Because the Philippines does not not have enough good paying job for its people….that is the problem….tell that to your favorite politicians who wants to be president , congressman and senators…..demand them to find a way to attract jobssssss in the Philippines…and the rest will be easy….Demand the creation… Read more »
Aeta
Guest

The Philippines will remain the same as long as the Filipino people think as ‘individuals’ instead of as ‘one nation.’ Our self-serving (makasarili/kanya-kanya) and aristocratic (hambog/mayabang) are too embedded in our subconscious mind and way of life. What the Filipino people need is a complete overhaul of their dysfucntional value system.

Aeta
Guest

The Philippines will remain the same as long as the Filipino people think as ‘individuals’ instead of as ‘one nation.’ Our self-serving (makasarili/kanya-kanya) and aristocratic (hambog/mayabang) nature are too embedded in our subconscious mind and way of life. What the Filipino people need is a complete overhaul of their dysfucntional value system.

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Aeta
Guest

The Philippines will remain the same as long as the Filipino people think as ‘individuals’ instead of as ‘one nation.’ Our self-serving (makasarili/kanya-kanya) and aristocratic (hambog/mayabang) nature are too embedded in our subconscious mind and way of life. What the Filipino people need is a complete overhaul of their dysfucntional value system.

Hector Gamboa
Guest

Hi Cezar. Good point. However, I think we also have to ask what can be done to enhance job creation. What do you think about enhancing the free market by encouraging competition? Let’s shun crony capitalism and let the free market do its magic. Thanks for reading!

Cezar
Guest
Free Market is already in place and it is humming like a nuclear machine with China on the lead as well as competition. capitalism is fueling that machine….the rich get rich and the poor will be poorer…and the spread of technology is uncontrollable ..it is triggering the manufacturing of copy cats products….the uncontrollable thievery of technology are rampant and China is on the lead….It is creating havocs in the western industrial nations…China is like a run away train and they are winning with billions of people for cheap labor …..How can you beat that and they know it…America and the… Read more »
Hector Gamboa
Guest
Well, free market has done and is doing wonders for China. The Philippines? Probably not so much or at least not on the same level. The problem with the Philippines is that because of the constitutional restriction on foreign control of businesses in certain sectors like telecommunication, energy, etc., what we have is crony capitalism. Crony capitalism is what we get when there is a cozy relationship between government and business. Under this setup, government gives special privileges to a particular group (e.g. majority shares/control, etc.). In a true free market, a business has no more power to use government… Read more »
Right of Center
Guest

Much respect. Very good post.

Hector Gamboa
Guest

Hi Aeta. I think in another angle individualism works better than collectivism. Thanks for reading!

Aeta
Guest

Hector Gamboa,

Not for the Philippines. For the most part, our people’s individualist (kanya-kanya/makasarili) attitude and behavior have been more detrimental than beneficial. Our country’s history and current state will tell you that.

Aeta

Jim DiGriz
Guest

Aeta, I second your opinion.

Hector Gamboa
Guest
Hi Aeta, When I say individualism vs collectivism, I mean it in the rational sense. There is nothing wrong with rational self-interest (that’s what I meant with my use of individualism) because rational self-interest is also beneficial to the entire community. In collectivism, individuals can take from a common pot regardless of how much they put in. In this setup there is an incentive to be a “freerider” – to do as little as possible and take as much as possible because what one fails to take will be taken by someone else. Soon the pot will be empty. This… Read more »
Aeta
Guest

Hector Gamboa,

In the current state of the Philippines, the Filipino people can no longer afford to think and live as individuals. Those generations of living like “it’s every man for himself” has done nothing but fock up the country and the people. We Filipinos need to start learning what collectivism means and start practicing it–like the Japanese–if we want to remain intact and survive as a nation.

Aeta

ChinoF
Member
I would say, why I agree with some liberal ideas, some conservative views are worth listening to. Actually, I would place myself in between the two sides. For individualism, I’m sure what Hector means is, we should all individually desire respect for public space instead of relying on a government “punishing” us to respect the public space. In a sense, the collectivist aspect of the Filipino is that they all are “kanya-kanya” and those who call for respect for public space are actually acting individually. I hope people get this. What Hector is hitting is what I explained in another… Read more »
Aeta
Guest

What the unwieldy Filipino people–who are unwilling to set aside their self-interests and differences and start acting like one nation–is to give up the leadership of their country to the United States or China (or whoever is foolish and greedy enough to try to get this chaotic country under control).

Hector Gamboa
Guest
I would say, why I agree with some liberal ideas, some conservative views are worth listening to. Actually, I would place myself in between the two sides. For individualism, I’m sure what Hector means is, we should all individually desire respect for public space instead of relying on a government “punishing” us to respect the public space. In a sense, the collectivist aspect of the Filipino is that they all are “kanya-kanya” and those who call for respect for public space are actually acting individually. I hope people get this. Hi Chino! Good point. That’s exactly what I mean. To… Read more »
d_forsaken
Guest

Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.

Aeta
Guest

I agree self-respect is the root of discipline. Unfortunately for Filipino, though, too much self-respect has lead to self-arrogance; and they are unable to “say no” to oneself’s desire to covet more than what they need to live.

Hector Gamboa
Guest

I agree. Thanks for reading!

zaxx
Member

I agree with the idea of letting private enterprise take the helm of developing as much as can be relinquished by incompetent government agencies/institutions.

let’s have more PPP projects. Also we need to expand and add more Zaxxun zones
http://zaxxun.com/zaxxun-zones/

A federal form of government on the other hand can create competition among federal states – modeling the free market of open competition that leads to improvements and excellence.

Presidente Emilio
Guest

Amen to that.

When there’s fair competition, there’s improvement. And progress follows after that.

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