Why Voters Should Not Vote for the ‘Right’ Candidates

activismThere is a saying that goes: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result”. Of course if we think about it, it’s not entirely true. Tom Chivers, assistant comment editor of The Telegraph in the United Kingdom, correctly points out the flaw of the cliché. He points out that it is incorrect because it implies that circumstances never change. But in the case of Philippine elections, it is quite tempting to say that the mindset of the majority of the Filipino electorate does not change (at least not very much). How many election cycles have “sympathy for the poor” and “anti-corruption crusades” been every politician’s battlecry? How many times have Filipinos elected these folks? Do we really think that politicians carrying that battlecry are any better? I submit that the fault really lies on the Filipino mindset and not the wrong people getting elected.

Elizabeth Angsioco, from her Manila Standard Today column, is appealing to the Filipino voters to vote for people with proven track record, competence, good vision and dedication to serve. In other words, she is calling on the voters to vote for the “right people”. While her intent is admirable and while it certainly is nice to have the “right people” running the government, I’m afraid that that’s not really how we can fix things. We have actually been doing that since the very first elections in the country were held. People have always thought that the people whom they voted for were the “right candidates”. Now we can argue that the trick is on how different people define what the “right candidates” are. But it really doesn’t matter because even if we can come up with one agreed upon definition of what the “right candidate” should be, we could still be fixated on the personality of the candidate and not the actual issues that really matter to us!

One of the demigods of free economics, Milton Friedman, gave a very interesting idea on how to fix the government. Instead of electing the “right” people, he suggests that people ought to instead make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right things! Friedman says:

“No, we don’t need to change Congress. Excuse me. You know, people have a great misunderstanding about this. People in Congress are in a business to buy votes. They’re in the business of competing with one another in order to get elected. The same Congressman will vote for a different thing if he thinks that’s politically profitable. You don’t have to change Congress. People have a great misconception in this way, that the way you solve things is by electing the right people. It’s nice to elect the right people, but that isn’t the way you solve it. The way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right things.”

Is Friedman correct even in the context of Philippine politics? Consider the following…

In 2007, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cancelled the controversial $329 Million contract between the Philippine government and the Chinese firm ZTE following a huge public outcry over alleged bribery and anomalies involved in the agreement.

Last year, the “Million People March” forced President Noynoy Aquino to abandon his defense of the pork barrel system. He initially defended the system and tried to persuade the people that his government has instituted reforms to avoid the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (or more commonly known as the pork barrel). Despite his promises and pleadings, he was forced to abolish it out of the huge public outcry.

When the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was ratified, there was a huge uproar against the law particularly with regards to online libel. Because of public outcry, the legislators who voted for the law flip-flopped and began to file bills to repeal objectionable provisions in the law such as online libel. On May 24, 2013, the Department of Justice announced that the online libel provision of the law had been dropped.

There are many cases where we can see that the voters themselves can force to have the right things despite having the wrong people sitting in power. There is no reason why voters would have to wait to elect the “right people” to do the right things. The people actually have the power to get the right things done even from the wrong politicians! Instead of focusing on voting for the “right candidates”, the people should focus on voicing their concerns! Get the right proposals out there and make the politicians support and commit to them! These politicians are all the same! While it would be nice to have the “right people” running the government, politicians are all motivated by self-interest just like all of us mere mortals! At the end of the day they will always stand for the most politically profitable option for them.

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17 Comments on “Why Voters Should Not Vote for the ‘Right’ Candidates”

  1. Milton Freidman, huh? The guy that is the Western ‘Neo-con’ economist du jour? is he your inspiration? ‘THE CHICAGO BOYS’, Freidman’s ‘protoges’ , have been looting economies via the IMF and World Bank for decades, most notably in Central and South America, and now in the ‘PIGS’ nations, and they are a cancer , at best.

    The ‘Austrian School’ is a more time tested and proven economic model, and besides: Getting THE RIGHT PEOPLE to do the RIGHT THING, should not be as perplexing a problem as it somehow is. A big problem in the Philippines is the lack of a livable working wage, and so corruption abounds in all avenues of the economy, its everywhere….and, un-fortunately ,’Uncle Milty’ doesn’t have the answer the country needs.

    1. Hi Flim-Flam MAN,

      Thanks for reading. Setting aside your seemingly personal distaste for Milton Friedman (and perhaps conservative political ideology), I think the problem with your suggestion is the definition of what a “livable working wage” is or should be. Everyone is different. One person’s or one family’s needs would differ from another. The more important question to ask, I think, is: What kind of system would give the widest range of people the greatest opportunity to make the most out of themselves out of their own capacities and out of their own resources? I would argue that free market capitalism is still the system that would be the best system to approximate the goal! I don’t think the Philippines has a very free market capitalist system in place… not with the foreign ownership restrictions in its Constitution and not with the kind of oligarchs and feudalistic society we have. Now I think we have to be careful with the idea of simply raising the minimum wage just so to achieve what is called a “livable working wage”. Forcing such a thing, I think, would even be more detrimental despite the good intentions. You will be looking at more unemployment and more cases where young and inexperienced folks could not enter the job market. But this sort of thing is a whole different topic in itself. My article is really more about less reliance on politicians or less reliance on a “savior mentality”. People shouldn’t elect candidates based on personality but by how they will stand (or have stood) on doing the right things. Any candidate can say that he or she is pro-poor or that he or she is an anti-corruption crusader. The question is: Is his or her record compatible with the issues that matter to you? (Or the right things?) And if you elect the person, should you stop there and wait to elect the next “right” candidate should the person you voted for turns out to be a dud? No! Of course not! People need to make their elected officials accountable and make them do the right thing by forcing them to look at important issues in the most politically profitable way for the politicians. Afterall, that is their ultimate goal – political profit for themselves.

      1. @ Hector, What was stated is ‘LACK of a livable working wage’ and nowhere was it stated that a minimum wage should be instituted.
        A ‘call center’ agent only has a job because a Western Corporation is too cheap to pay Eu8/USD $10/GBP 7.5 to a Westerner. So a Filipino politician takes a kick-back and lets that cheap-ass Western Corporation into the Philippines ,complete w/favorable tax breaks, and allows access to Filipino workers that make 1/10th the amount they should be paid.Sorry, but this,THIS SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING.

        Free market capitalism NO LONGER EXISTS, it is ‘Crony-capitalism’ and it is becoming world-wide, with the slave wages being paid to who-ever is willing to work for them, no matter what country they are in. The EU & USA have just stripped every single manufacturing job (& every other job that can be done for less money by someone else in a foreign country) from their citizens and given these jobs to Chinese slaves that work for rice, no beans either, and the result has been the destruction of the middle-class’s in Western societies(SO, FUCK MILTON FREIDMAN ). Now I realize that people in the 3rd world may be clue-less to these facts and do not care anyway, they need a job and so work for, like I said:RICE.BUT These call center jobs paying a Filipino $300/month only serve to diminish the Filipino(these total crap ‘call center’ jobs are not going to pull anyone out of poverty but, rather, increase it.SEE?) and screw a Western worker out of what could be a decent paying job, so it cuts BOTH WAYS. P15,000/month,WHAT? For a full-time ‘call center’ job is a fuckin DISGRACE….and it should not be allowed to happen, it’s bad for all concerned,except the corporate bottom-line/corrput politicians, and that is what was meant by ‘Lack of livable working wage.’.

        Why should Filipino’s be paid 1/10th of what a Westerner would make at the same job if it were located in the Western country that the Corporation is doing business in? AND ,more importantly, why do the politicians in the Philippines allow their citizens to be exploited like this(Rhetorical question here)? Are Filipino’s supposed to be proud to work for almost nothing? and then be grateful for having such a shit paying job?

        1. Hi Flim-Flam MAN,

          Yes, lack of livable working wage. But I would argue that it’s the same piece of the pod. The problem is the definition of “livable” and it can be very different from one person (or family) to another. So it doesn’t change my argument. With regards to your objection about the disparity of pay between the Filipino versus a Westerner, well, nobody says free market capitalism is about equality. Free market capitalism is more about liberty. The thing we have to understand is that the pay the Filipino gets is not forced upon the Filipino. The Western companies are not putting a gun against the Filipino person’s head to force him or herself to accept the “unfair” wage. It is a mutually agreed upon contract between the employer and the employee, an X amount of money in exchange for the employee’s services. The Filipino has the freedom not to work for the “cheap” Westerner if he or she thinks that his or her wage is unfair.

          I do not deny that crony capitalism exists and I too do not like it. However, that is also what we get if we let government get to pick and choose winners and losers in business (think Solyndra for instance).
          Thanks for your time.

          Regards,
          Hector

  2. Learn from Hong Kong. The fielding of candidates is just as important as electing the “right” one into office.

    As it stands now, the pool of “winnables” are predetermined for us by the power brokers, vested interests and political elites. The game is rigged from the start. All the candidates are basically interchangeable and malleable; willing to sell their souls to the highest bidder. The great mass of Philippine civil society is ignorant and incapable of producing candidates with integrity and competence. Hence, the powerful dominate the weak by making sure only their kind has a chance to win. The poor fools are pleased with this illusion of choice and are content to merely legitimize the choices that were made for them long ago.

    What must happen is for the people to have a political awakening of sorts. They must organize into groups capable of producing candidates based on a set of ideals and principles and which they will support all the way to office. Change must be ground-up not top-down.

    Of course, ignorance and blind obedience are cherished values of Philippine society and we may be doomed to play this rigged game for eternity.

    1. Hi Tank,

      Thanks for reading. I think if I read your comment correctly, in short, voters should not vote on personalities but on ideals and principles. So the right principles would determine who the right candidates would be. I completely agree.

      1. Not just that but voters should be producing candidates among themselves. We ought to have genuine political organization among the populace.

  3. Our problem here is electing political candidates, who are apparently “right”…after they are elected: they turned out to be wrong…
    They deceived voters; they promise promises they cannot fulfill. The HOCUS PCOS ia also one of the problem.

    Take the case of Aquino. The Media sponsored, some sort of “debates” , among the contenders. Aquino was never present in these debates. Then, the Media stopped the “debates”, just about six month to the election. Instead, the Aquino proipaganda machines; extolled the “greatness” of Aquino’s parent.

    Low wages is just one of the causes of corruption. However, the rich politicians are also corrupt. They are stealing from the : DAF, PDAF, PORK BARRELS, etc…

    I have some reliable sources; that the Mayor of Marawi City,Lanao del Sur; together with the Police are selling illegal drugs. There are many drug addicts in that city. And the Mayor, Police; maybe: Purisima and Aquino are getting rich on this illegal drug business…the people are afraid of the Mayor and the Police…

    1. Hello Hyden,

      Thanks for reading. You are correct. Our problem is voting for candidates who are “apparently right”. But that is only half of the problem. The other problem is that the people often get too lazy or apathetic when it comes to making the elected officials accountable. There is this savior mentality that prevails as if they think that the next “right” candidate would take them out of the mess they are in and that it is the elected official’s responsibility to make everything right. As former US President James Madison once said: “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.”

  4. The problem that the author saw is this: After the Filipinos voted in who they thought was the “right” candidate, say BS Aquino… they stopped right there. No follow up. As if they wanted to say, “OK, we voted him in, let him do what he wants, he should fix things.”

    That’s wrong. After voting, citizens should keep following up. They should check up on the promises of the winner and make sure he delivers, even if he is the one they voted for. If the official doesn’t deliver, criticism should ensue. If they just defend him even if he does wrong, you know they’re in it for the money, or never voted seriously. That’s the essence of being a real voter: political participation continues long after the election.

    The thing is, corrupt officials like most the voters who not only vote for them, but prefer to “stay out of politics” and indulge in consumerism, making it easy for the officials to carry out their shenanigans.

    1. @ Madafak, The democratically elected Ukrainian gov’t. was ousted in a coup d’tat. Some say the coup was orchestrated by the CIA, and if it was, then the West (USA/EU/UK/JAPAN) has undermined its own principles to gain a foothold in its quest to control all who potentially oppose it (Russia & China) as well as commandeer the natural resources & monetary assets of the Ukraine. The IMF is now poised, and has already, imposed massive debt on the Ukraine and its people in the form of Bank bailouts ala Greece and now has reign over the countries monetary producing assets (Foreign Airline landing fees,Tarrif collections) that will no longer go toward the betterment of the country but directly into the coffers of the IMF to payback the Banker bailouts.The Ukrainian people will see zero benefit from these bailouts and are now truly fucked.

      it is doubtful that you actually know what has happened in the Ukraine, for if you did it is just as doubtful that you would want it to happen in the Philippines.

  5. a good read
    but the big problem here is how can we complain about those people in the government?
    it will just fall on deaf ears
    and even the police is corrupt and can’t be trusted
    the only way to be heard is if there are many people supporting it like the million people march or even need to be endorsed by known or popular people

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