Inflation is like taxation. It is a certainty. The only thing that is not certain about inflation is the rate at which it gallops (or trots) along. Sometimes we enjoy low inflation rates and sometimes we suffer high inflation rates. At an individual level, we have no control over the behaviour of this ill-understood economic indicator. It is an aggregate effect that bubbles up from the behaviour of individual agents transacting at the micro level. The only real way indivduals can deal with inflation is to either (1) spend less money or (2) make more money.
The trouble begins when inflation is politicised, as is being done today by some Filipino “thought leaders”. Many variables contribute to the behaviour of inflation numbers. Yet these “thought leaders” are quick to attribute the inflation rate to whoever is the sitting president of the country. That’s just plain lazy thinking packaged into that all-too-familiar brand of mediocre “activism” that prevails the discourse today. The fact is, no one person — not even the president — can directly influence inflation rates, specially in today’s hyper-globalised economy.
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The inflation rate is driven by many factors. There is no one “god” much less a sitting president who can change this rate by edict. So praying to a “god” or whining about a president is a complete waste of time. Nonetheless, Filipino “activists” are clearly exploiting a rather mundane but well-known collective characteristic of Filipino culture — their culture of religion and superstition. Religious people often irrationally attribute their troubles (or fortunes) to a higher power. That’s plain nonsense.
The idea of a more transparent cause-and-effect system underlying the drivers of inflation are apparently too hard to use as bases for most discussions. It is easier to use strong but nebulous cognitive shortcuts and emotional hooks to dishonestly influence superstitious and lazy minds. It is only when Filipinos disabuse themselves of notions that Philippine presidents — and entire governments, for that matter — significantly contribute to individual fortunes (or individual poverty) that a true ethic of wealth creation can take root in Philippine society. When you do something right, the probability of a good outcome increases. Do something wrong, and you are more likely to experience a bad outcome.
Sometimes that cause-and-effect happens within one lifetime (as what happened to tech billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and to nations like Singapore). Sometimes it takes multiple generations over many decades or centuries for cause-and-effect streams to yield outcomes, such as how it took Europe centuries to claw its way out of the Dark Ages to its golden ages of Enlightenment, empire, and scientific achievement; or how generations of enterprising Chinese immigrants and their descendants accumulated their family estates and built their business empires. This reality should be especially relevant in recent Philippine history where governments change every six years. The economy is too encompassing to attribute specific behaviours at given points in time to whoever happens to be in power at that time.
Filipinos are better off being encouraged to focus their energies towards concerns that they can directly influence. No amount of whining about inflation will change it. But finding more, new and better ways to make more money is something each individual Filipino can do. They can work more, work harder, and/or work smarter. All of the above can yield more income. The latter one works best. Working smarter is what makes people rich. Ultimately that is what the world’s most prosperous societies did — work smarter. To work smart (or for that matter, be smart) one needs to learn how to think. Think more and whine less.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.