Destroying the ‘Filipino First’ Mindset
There are a lot of myths and fantastic stories that most of our intellectuals and university professors created and propagated to explicate the source or roots of poverty in the Philippines. Most of these myths reflect not merely the level of intellectual bankruptcy of our academic intellectuals and scholars, but also the degree of their almost incurable confusion. Their inability to identify and understand the very roots of the country’s political and economic ills is not, technically speaking, the result of their lack of education, as most of them are highly educated and highly accomplished, but the manifestation of the kind or brand of philosophy or ideology they so strongly embrace.
Objective identification of the country’s real and actual political and social problems is the only key to economic prosperity and freedom. For instance, a few weeks before the 2010 national elections, a group of “top economists” publicized a join statement in which they identified the source of the country’s many economic and social problems. These economists, who manifested their support for President Noynoy Aquino’s presidential bid, claimed that failure of governance is the “main obstacle to the country’s long-run economic growth and ability to respond to the people’s most urgent needs.”
I somehow agree that the many problems that we face today were the result of what they call “failure of governance”, however, I strongly disagree with their crude evaluation. They defined “failure of governance” as the “inability to enforce an adherence to the demands of law and the lack of will to uphold the people’s lawful demands.” There are two corollaries of this ‘failure of governance’ here: 1) economic problems and inefficiency, and 2) government’s inability to respond to people’s needs. However, the question now is: How should the government guarantee economic growth and how should it respond to people’s urgent needs? They did not elaborate. Instead, they came up with undefined platitudes and undigested solutions to the problem of ‘failure of governance.’ They said, “It is time the Philippines once more had a leader who embodies the spirit of heroism and integrity we share as Filipinos. We are convinced that Sen. Noynoy Aquino is that leader.”
They also stated the following: “The call for a higher standard of public ethics, therefore, is not some abstract moral preference—it is an imperative for survival and development. We believe that among the presidential candidates, Senator Aquino represents the best hope for such a change.” Again, the proper answer to the focal question above— how should the government secure economic growth and how should it respond to people’s needs— is still hanging in the balance.
A lot of Filipino intellectuals and academics also claimed that graft and corruption is one of the main sources of the country’s social and economic problems. To support their claim, they pointed out the many corrupt practices, cases of bribery, plunder, and malversation of public funds, and abuse of political powers that past and present politicians committed and perpetrated against the rule of law and the Filipino people. They indeed have a point except the fact that they don’t fully understand the main cause of these graft and corrupt practices in the government sector.
What is the source of corruption and failure of governance? This is actually one of the most fundamental questions that our intellectuals, academics, scholars, and political pundits take for granted. They simply believe that corruption can be and should be solved by the government alone.
When it comes to failure of governance the very solution proposed by these intellectuals and political pundits is, in fact and in reality, the antithesis of economic progress and freedom. For instance, there’s this Buy Filipino Movement, organized and established by well-meaning Filipino business leaders and professionals, that encourages Filipino consumers to patronize Filipino brands, products, and services. This advocacy is actually a rip off of former President Carlos P. Garcia’s Filipino First Policy that reeks of dogmatic nationalism and of primitive statism.
Indeed, the intellectual godfather of our modern-day Filipino Firsters is none other than former president Garcia who envisioned “to make the Filipinos first and supreme in the national economic household of the Philippines.” Garcia’s protectionist policy was, in fact, loaded with socialistic and welfarist justifications, saying that “for 400 years when we were under foreign domination the economic policy of this country had been defined and carried out principally for the benefit of the colonial power that at the time ruled us.”
So the only solution to destroy foreign domination in our economy, according to this statist leader, was protectionism and massive government regulations.
Determined to justify his statist policy, Garcia once said:
“If the Filipinos cannot be first in the Philippines, where else can they be first? Only when Filipinos are first in their country will the Philippines be finally truly free. Until then, their independence can only be a sham. While aliens control the economy, how can Filipinos be said to be masters in their homes or their government is sovereign in their lands? They are mere hirelings, dummies, servants – subservient to the will of others, serving their interests first. How can Filipinos advance their own?”
There you see the character, nature and ideology of one of our statist and intellectually bankrupt presidents who advocated protectionism, massive state regulations, and the restriction of our economy to foreign investors. Garcia should have exerted some effort to understand and study how protectionism destroyed economies in the past, especially that of the United States under the term of U.S. President Hoover who resorted to protectionism in order to save America’s ailing economy during the Great Depression.
In 1930, Hoover signed into law the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which increased American tariffs to unprecedented levels. This protectionist act practically closed the American borders to affordable foreign goods, which would have benefited financially troubled Americans during the Great Depression. American economists and historians claimed that the 1930s was the beginning of the ‘real depression’ and the crowning folly of the whole troubled period from 1920 to 1933.
According to American economist Benjamin Anderson:
“Once we raised our tariffs, an irresistible movement all over the world to raise tariffs and to erect other trade barriers, including quotas, began. Protectionism ran wild over the world. Markets were cut off. Trade lines were narrowed. Unemployment in the export industries all over the world grew with great rapidity. Farm prices in the United States dropped sharply through the whole of 1930, but the most rapid rate of decline came following the passage of the tariff bill.”
This protectionist mentality also infected the minds of showbiz personalities and entertainment pundits who strongly supported the proposal to regulate foreign artists in the country. They believe that forcible limitation or regulation of foreign artists’ gainful activities in the country would give them the opportunity to shine and to attract more local supporters.
Let’s examine this wave of statist and protectionist proposals and calls that swept the country’s academia, business sector, media, and even entertainment industry. Let’s also examine the beneficiaries and possible victims of these proposals.
Protectionism is defined as “the economic policy of restraining trade between states through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, restrictive quotas, and a variety of other government regulations designed to allow “Fair” competition between imports and goods and services produced domestically.”
If a private group, entity, or association merely called on Filipino consumers to patronize and buy Filipino-made products, brands, and services without advocating the passage of protectionist policies and laws, I believe there’s nothing immoral, improper, or unfair with this particular situation. However, if such a private entity or association called on the government to pass protectionist laws and issue protectionist policies in order to restrict free trade and the entry of foreign investors and goods, then I believe such a call or advocacy must be strongly opposed by anyone who still possesses sanity and reason.
Protectionism does not and will never benefit Filipino consumers, the entire industry, and the entire economy. The only potential beneficiaries of this statist policy are the incompetent, unproductive Filipino manufacturers and businesses that produce low quality, high-priced products and services. By restricting the entry of cheap, affordable, high-quality foreign goods, the government, in effect, subsidizes these incompetent and unproductive domestic entrepreneurs to the detriment of Filipino consumers and of the whole economy.
In times of crisis and of high inflation the government should do the right thing by allowing the entry of foreign goods and encouraging foreign investment. To restrict foreign goods and foreign investors at a time of joblessness, high budget deficit and economic downturn is suicidal. To continue to coddle our unproductive, inefficient entrepreneurs and to up the level of the country’s cronyism is tantamount to treason against the entire Filipino people.
If the neo-advocates of Filipino first Policy advocate protectionism, those who believe that the source of our many crises is ‘failure of governance’ call for more government intervention. What could be the reason why most, if not all, of our intellectuals, academics and political pundits believe that the solution to these problems is Big Government? The only possible answer to this query is the fact that they fail or refuse to understand and identify the main cause of failure of governance and of graft and corruption.
Big Government or more government powers is the root cause- that is, the cause of the cause– of these problems. For years we have been taught- by our teachers, professors, media pundits, church leaders, and political leaders- that the solution to our social problems or even personal predicaments is the government. In 1987, or a few years after Garcia launched his Filipino First Policy, we enacted the New Constitution, which had been our answer to foreign capitalist domination, poverty, and inequality. We’ve been gradually indoctrinated that the source of the country’s poverty, economic troubles, and political crisis was Western imperialism or foreign domination. We’re taught to blame others for our self-caused tragedy. We’re taught, by our leftist or statist professors, to blame imperialist America for our own economic troubles. We’re taught to hate multinational corporations for high unemployment and high prices of commodities. We’re taught to blame the Western media, which had long been dominated by liberal and statist media intellectuals, for our so-called ‘colonial mentality’. In the minds of these statist intellectuals, we did nothing wrong.
‘A Filipino Aryan Race’ ruled and dominated only by Filipinos, is the ultimate utopian goal of these pro-protectionist, statist intellectuals. My goal- our goal- is to expose and destroy this dogmatic pro-Filipino mentality. Filipino nationalism is now a thing of the past. It had long been exposed and destroyed, yet its despicable remnants still percolate in the empty minds of our statist media and academic intellectuals. It is our universities, particularly the alleged elite schools, that continue to revive this nationalistic mentality through their pro-leftist, pro-big government professors.
The solution to failure of government and graft and corruption is not the Big Government, but Limited Government and Free Market Capitalism. Graft and corrupt practices exist because of the many pervasive, intrusive and non-objective government functions that limit and/or violate our freedoms and rights. Observe that cases of corruption and bribery are rampant in government agencies that engage in moneyed transactions (e.g., BOC, BIR, DepEd, DPWH, etc.). This is because the government has become so big and so enormous that it gradually amassed so much powers to the detriment of its citizens’ individual rights. Corruption and irregularities in some government-owned and -controlled corporations like MWSS, PAGCOR, PCSO, among others have become part of their culture because the government simply holds a monopoly on public utility, gambling and other sectors.
The only solution is to privatize these GOCCs.
If economic prosperity and a higher degree of freedom is the goal of our public intellectuals, they should be clamoring for the only proper and moral solution: Limited Government and Capitalism.
However, this almost-impossible goal could not be achieved without revising our semi-socialist Constitution. Since the goal is to establish a limited government with delimited and well-defined powers and duties, the first step is to understand the proper function of government. The only proper, moral, and practical function of government is to protect individual rights. That is, it has no power at all to use force against any unarmed citizen, to redistribute wealth, to favor one group or sector at the expense of another, establish cronies or politically connected groups or corporations, or to violate their rights and freedoms. To execute this function, a government needs to establish law courts (to settle disputes and protect contracts), military (to protect the entire nation against foreign invasion, and police (to protect individuals against criminals, gangs, and rights-violators).
However, all of these institutions (e.g., limited government, capitalism, freedom, etc.) remain futile without focusing on the proper concept of rights. Since the government has no power at all to redistribute wealth or to grant special favors to certain privileged individuals or groups, thus there should be no right to entitlement or welfare. The only duty of the government is to protect every citizen’s right to life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. It is the pursuit of values and rational actions that the government ought to sanction, protect and respect. There is no such thing as right to education, right to health care, right to affordable housing, right to transport, right to welfare, etc.