While pseudo experts come up with the equivalent of a Rube Goldberg machine to solve simple problems, real experts often come up with simple yet effective solutions after finding the appropriate process to correctly identify the problem.
You can find proof of this in various situations ranging from repairing cars to curbing criminality.
One such example I like bringing up is the “Broken Windows Theory” which states that simply keeping places clean and orderly may deter vandalism and discourage more serious crime. To deter vandalism and crime, experts trained in the Rube Goldberg school of thought would have probably proposed the use of sophisticated electronic surveillance, genetically engineered attack dogs, and cutting edge nano-robotic self-repairing paint.
Another example is the time when the mechanic at neighborhood auto-repair shop fixed a problem in a car’s automatic transmission just by tightening just one screw, when all other mechanics were saying that the transmission had to be taken down and the car’s computer box needed to be replaced.
Yet another situation where you’ll find “Rube Goldberg” solutions being proposed will be when you observe people discussing solutions to dysfunctions in Filipino political culture.
The disciples of Rube Goldberg school of political solutioneering will perhaps say that in order for Filipinos to elect better leaders, the country should shift to a parliamentary form of government, liberalize the economy, and break up the country into federal states.
Notwithstanding the merits of each proposal, perhaps it would be better to start by figuring out why Filipinos vote in the way they do. Chances are, you will find out that a substantial number of Filipino voters don’t have a full grasp of what elected officials are supposed to be doing beyond granting favors and dispensing various forms of ‘assistance’ either in cash or in kind.
Just consider that for a people not known for a love of following rules and laws his country, the largest number of officials they elect every year are legislators — 24 senators and 300 or so congressmen, not to mention hundreds of provincial board members, thousands of municipal board members, barangay councilors, and SK councilors.
If you’ve ever spent time in the office of a senator or congressman, you’ll probably see that the larger number of visitors are comprised of people seeking all sorts of “assistance” — medical assistance, scholarships, employment, etcetera — all granted through their Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF. The lesser number of visitors would be comprised of individuals or groups lobbying for resolutions, bills, or some manner of intervention using the legislator’s oversight function or clout.
In a conversation about PDAF, a friend remarked that this could be the reason why Cong. Jules Ledesma doesn’t find it necessary at all to show his face on the plenary floor or participate in committee hearings. My friend assumes that Cong. Ledesma sees his role as legislator largely fulfilled just by ensuring the uninterrupted dispensation of PDAF to his political supporters — whether they’re ordinary constituents or political kingmakers. And, as Cong. Toby Tiangco had intimated during the Corona Impeachment Trial, all that a legislator needs to ensure the release of PDAF is not brain-work but only a sufficient number of muscle movements to sign a Malacanang sponsored impeachment complaint.
PDAF supplants the necessity for a high intellectual capacity and deftness in engaging in intellectual discourse which is the very core of policy formulation which in turn is the primary job of legislators. With PDAF, legislators are automatically granted largess without having to argue for its case.
My friend’s theory is that without PDAF and with the strict application of line budgeting, Cong. Ledesma would soon find himself actually having to ‘work’ for his district by participating in budget deliberations to ensure that funding for programs and projects are included in the General Appropriations Act. Effective participation in budget deliberations, in my mind, would involve a fair degree of negotiation skills as well as a fairly deep and broad knowledge about different types of projects — from how hospitals are managed to how roads are built. If Cong. Ledesma fails to swing projects for his district through his participation in budget hearings, one can assume that he won’t get elected for another term.
Taking away PDAF raises the required level of proficiency and expands the breadth of skill sets needed to channel government funds and in a way, encourages some level of meritocracy.
Because, if people want more nationally funded programs and projects in their districts, they’ll have to elect people who are more effective in line budget deliberations. This could conceivably exclude the likes of entertainment celebrities who can’t even articulate anything beyond rehearsed lines written by script writers and publicists.
Clearly, it seems foolish to inflexibly stick to the position that one can expect a change in political behavior and culture by changing the rules and laws in a country where people are not known to abide by rules and laws.
The better position, perhaps, can be stated simply: You can change behavior simply by changing the incentive. If the incentive is money, you’ll attract people who like money. If the incentive is being given an opportunity to apply one’s intellect, chances are you’ll attract intellectuals.
Clearly, this goes against the thinking that can’t reach beyond dog collars and pigeon feed.
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