Archive for May 2010


May 30, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening!

The events in the Eurozone are now getting to be more alarming. Forecasters are now claiming that another round of recession is in the offing, as the bubble burst that began in Greece will spread to Spain, Ireland, and other member-states of the EU.

Will liberal capitalism continue to live a life that seems to hang in the balance? Or will capitalism need to restore itself through totalitarian means? What’s so wrong with the system that it just can’t be sustained enough?

Let me share to you past blog writings about the subject: ‘mad economics’ and the ‘demise of liberal capitalism.’

[Philippines, 23 May 2010]


Erle Frayne Argonza

Good afternoon!

At this moment, I’m sipping coffee contained in a pack that is sold for worth P130, or $3.00. The pack is one of the domestic brands of brewed coffee blends, ready for the drip coffee maker, of the Arabica and/or Robusta varieties. In economic parlance, this coffee is a commodity because (a) it was intended for exchange and not for the coffee producer’s consumption alone, and (b) money was used to acquire (purchase) it.

I have such deep fondness for coffee, as I acquired my coffee-drinking behavior as a childhood habit yet. In my hometown of Tuguegarao (city), Cagayan province (North Philippines), coffee beans were grounded into powder form and sold right inside the ‘wet’ market, was brewed using the local decoction techniques, and was consumed by people of all ages from pre-school to senior’s age. That was then, and that was how I learned to drink this beverage at age 5 more or less. I was hooked to the habit since then, even as I continued to drink milk that I still do till now.
Both coffee and milk are among my health formulas, and both are commodities.

The question I’m asking now is, will commodity-based economics survive the times ahead? Both coffee and milk will survive for sure, but will the money economy that underpins them survive as well? As to the broader world system of capitalism, will it survive too or is it in fact on its death knell today?

Capitalism was the last of the world systems that embodied the ‘money economy’ to which it properly belongs. With the opening of the 20th century, the socialist world system appeared on the social landscape and attempted to serve as an alternative to capitalism, but this experienced its early demise as its implementers found out that it cannot be sustained after all. Both capitalism and socialism are embodiments of the ‘money economy’ as it later turned out to be, they are just but two sides of the same coin: the ‘money economy’.

Socialism is gone, and no matter what attempts there may arrive to survive it in some other forms, this variant of the ‘money economy’ is gone. Now capitalism is all alone, and it is getting more real than virtual that it too is bound to crash a catastrophic end, and with its demise, the “last of the (economic) Mojicans” is bound to disappear (my apologies to Mojicans if my note sounds ethnically incorrect). And with capitalism’s demise, the whole of the ‘money economy’ folds up like unto a book that had reached its last chapter, and deserves more to be consigned to the archives of history.

The Frankfurt school thinkers, notably Jurgen Habermas, cogitated that capitalism’s life span was extended somehow, and was dubbed as ‘late’ capitalism in this last phase of the world system. In this phase, state planning and interventionism were infused into the system to extend its life. Before ‘late’ capital came the mercantile, free enterprise, and monopoly phases of this world system. Will there be another phase to capitalism after ‘late’ capital?

Before I answer that extension of life span, let me stress that ‘late’ capitalism shall end in the following process and manner:

· The re-introduction of liberalization—of free market and free trade principles—into ‘late’ capital shifted engagements away from production, the real foundation of the economy, to the sphere of predatory finance, thus producing the gargantuan ‘bubble economy’. The ‘physical economy’ of production transmogrified into the ‘virtual economy’ that produces no real value other than imaginary or delusional values. It is ‘mad economics’ in operation, no longer the ‘rational economics’ of mercantilists, classicists and neo-classicists.

· The ‘mad economics’ led to the yawning gap between actually produced values and the aggregates of financial derivatives and debts combined, to the extent that the former shrinks at a rapid rate relative to the latter. As bubbles burst from one commodity sector to another, leading eventually to a crisis of gargantuan proportion, all the more will production shrink, unable to produce values that can input into the demand functions for fresh money to pay for aggregate credits, primary debts, secondary debt obligations, and so on.

· The crisis will then move on to the further shrinking of production, tightening of credit sources, and hyperinflationary situation in utilities (notably gas & power), food, base metals and other vital commodities. Total economic collapse results from the foregoing.

· The economic collapse then leads to social unrests, turmoil, upheavals, civil wars, food wars, water wars, and possibly intercontinental wars such as another 3rd world war. The clash of world powers and their surrogate emerging markets will become the flames of a possible long war akin to the 30 Years War (c.1618-48).

Let me now end at that instance. Suffice me to proclaim that the death knell of ‘late’ capitalism and the whole of the ‘money economy’ of the last 2000 years or so are ending. The ‘non-cognitive economics’ of the Roman to feudal era, the ‘rational economics’ of the Renaissance to monopoly capital era, and the ‘mad economics’ of ‘late’ capital were markedly the underpinning mediation processes of that entire 2000-year epoch. The epoch and its last phase of capitalism is rapidly drawing to a close.

[Writ 22 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]


Erle Frayne Argonza

To all fellow men and women out there who may have deep fondness for the liberal capitalist model of economic adaptation, I hope that you can make some adjustments in your cognitive banks. Capitalism is not a permanent facet of human life, but merely one among various epochs that will come to pass. Only impermanence is sacrosanct in the cosmos, so please refrain from singing hallelujah to a world system that is on its death knell as I articulated in a previous article.

And please refrain from swallowing hook-line-&-sinker the contentious propaganda of Francis Fukuyama about the ‘end of history’, that accordingly history had concluded with the galvanization of liberal capitalism, that history makes no more sense. Fukuyama’s theory is a slapstick narrative of hyper-valuation of the ‘mad economics’ of late capitalism and hypo-statization of reality that has no relation at all to the real in the world out there. Fukuyama had taken as ‘real’ what is actually ‘virtual’, and froze time much like unto a fairy tale of timelessness, of history-less Nietzschean moment that is fit more for infants than for adult humans.

Fukuyama epitomizes the ‘mad economics’ of all those Pied Pipers of the global oligarchy for whom he works, and his discourse is akin to the ‘mad discourse’ so described by the late Michel Foucault. The ‘mad economics’ of Friedman, Hayek, Fukuyama, and all those technocrats who serve as processors and bagmen for the global oligarchy, is precisely symptomatic of that colossal ailment of a world system, and as we all know, madness can never salve ailments but rather hasten the system’s death. Caput! Blow your horns, prepare dirges to this Dead One!

Unless that you yourselves have become maddened by the seemingly infinite monies flowing unto your purses as you are among the beneficiaries of ‘late’ capital, unless that you are indeed now suffering from combined maladies of sociopathy and schizophrenia, unless that sanity had departed from thee forever, please heed the last plea of your own conscience where sanity had retreated: CAPITALISM IS DEAD! No amount of propagandizing, of contorted interpretations, can ever change the course of history at this juncture, as we are all headed for a TOTAL SYSTEM COLLAPSE in the months ahead. Read that please: MONTHS AHEAD, not years ahead.

What went wrong with capitalism? I’m sure all of you fellows knew what went wrong, do I even need to answer that? Your previous thinker mentors, among economists and sociologists, forewarned you all of the forthcoming demise of capitalism, but you paid nary an attention to those brilliant minds as you were so engrossed in your ‘conspicuous consumption’, behaving more like some infantile EATERS or as anthropoids rather than as thinking and spiritually evolving humans. You are all very much human, so please consistently behave like one, and begin by listening to the Inner Voice of your conscience, for that voice is your soul’s.

Let me summarize the diagnostics, forewarnings and/or prophecies of our thinker mentors from the West, and I’d stress WEST because there are some other thinker mentors from the EAST and SOUTH whose peregrinations are so recondite they are not so easily digestible. Let me just stress the WEST as this is what is common to us all. So let me re-echo the thinkers and their theories:

· Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels: The internal contradictions between the private nature of capital (ownership of means of production) and the social nature of production. The ‘crisis of overproduction’ and the ‘law of the falling rate of profit’ are attendant patterns. Social revolution results, then the alternative society will be constructed.

· Max Weber: Industrial capitalism’s granite product, the bureaucracy, led to dehumanization. He never forecast though whether this dehumanizing system can be sustained—but please read between the lines. (His contemporary Emile Durkheim had a similar observation about ‘anomie’ or normless state of urban/industrial society.)

· Thorsten Veblen: The end-phase of industrial capitalism is markedly pathological. ‘Conspicuous consumption’ is the disease of this phase, the toxic behavior from the ruling class that later filtered down to the emerging middle class.

· Joseph Schumpeter: The internal contradiction between the desire for profit and the revolutionary character of innovation. The demise of capitalism will see the possibility of the technical class taking over society and build that alternative system later.

· Daniel Bell: The ‘post-industrial’ society had already been born right inside capitalism. A distinct modality in itself, post-industrialism will eventually prevail in a system that isn’t capitalist (or money economy) but rather knowledge-based. The ‘service worker’ had arrived on the social landscape, the prototype class of the future.

· Theodore Adorno, Jurgen Habermas, Herbert Marcuse: ‘Late’ capital is characterized by the pervasiveness of ‘instrumental reason’, where reason is used to justify the non-rational (‘madness’ in Foucault’s argot), where state planning/intervention was infused into a system that scorned intervention.

· Alvin Toffler: Both capitalism and socialism are based on hoarding, both are variants of the same industrial society of yesteryears, both are based on ‘2nd wave’ capital-intensive technologies and non-renewable energy sources. The ‘post-industrial’ society is altogether distinct, isn’t based on hoarding, production-consumption (‘prosumer’) is based on ‘3rd wave’ knowledge-intensive technologies and renewable energy sources, knowledge cannot be hoarded.

I need not articulate further, do I? They all converged on one theme: capitalism is transitory, it bred social maladies (alienation, dehumanization, anomie, conspicuous consumption,…), is systemically flawed, and will be dismantled at sometime in the future.

No matter how delimited their theories maybe, as they all proceeded from certain perspectives (they were all ‘paradigm’-based in the jargon of Thomas Kuhn), they all proclaimed—in either tacit or explicit fashion—the coming demise of the system. They weren’t as silly as Fukuyama who popularized seemingly ‘satanic verses’ (distorted precepts) about a non-changing, permanent economic landscape called ‘liberal capitalism’, but were rather so adroit at social forecasting that they saw a vision of the future as they were articulating on their empirical observations of the present society.

So, fellows out there, prepare for the months and years ahead. We are headed towards those stormy months, years, maybe even decades. How the future society will come to shape is not easy to forecast. “Something blurs the Force, darkens our sight of the future,” declared a Jedi Master in the Star Wars cinema fame. Let me end right here.

[Writ 22 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]


May 28, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Magandang gabi! Good evening!

Eurozone is burning. Before the flames would reach infernal levels, the contagion effects thereof burning the other regions of the globe, a global financial conference should be convened most urgently.

The purpose of the conference would be to configure a new financial architecture. Such a policy architecture would then as guidepost to all nation-states and regional alliances (EU, trade regimes such as ASEAN, NAFTA, Mercosur, others) to follow.

In the absence of such a policy architecture, palliatives can only emerge from the board rooms of incompetent bureaucrats. Among such palliatives now arising are: (a) Merkel’s solution to regulate hedge funds operations (financial derivatives); and, (b) Obama & US Congress’ regulations of speculative excesses of its stock markets.

Such palliatives are merely piecemeal solutions, even as they are too partial and parochial. They weren’t derived from a comprehensive paradigm that could have generated clear explications of the financial/economic crises of our times. They are reactive rather than responsive. Absent a policy architecture, and the piecemeal solutions will only have short-run impacts, and will be folded up when “things will get better.”

The top agenda that must be taken up are:

  1. Criminalize speculative excesses. Speculation has fueled bubble economies worldwide. Financial predators have emerged from the oligarchic quarters up North, who have played havoc on the equities and currency markets. If it will turn out beneficial to ban and criminalize hedge funds operations later, then so be it. Such vulture funds have no place in a civilized world where we witness poverty and hunger rising.
  2. Tobin Tax cross-border transactions. In no way should unbridled cross-border transactions be allowed without taxation. A minimum Tobin Tax of 0.75% on all such transactions should be imposed. Higher tax on derivatives and commodities futures of 1.5% can also be agreed upon. The accruing tax revenues will then be turned over to the United Nations and attached agencies for their operations & maintenance budgets.
  3. Condone fraudulent/usurious debts. Debts that are fraudulent or too usurious, notably those lent to developing economies, should be completely condoned. The same economies can then have a fresh start and breathing space for anti-poverty, jobs, and related social development efforts.
  4. Abolish the Jurassic Fund (IMF). It is now time to re-assess the International Monetary Fund, leading to its abolition. It does not represent the interest of the member-states, but is rather a middle man peddling the interests of global financial cartels. Its top executives come from the ranks of the same cartels. It had imposed austerity measures on many developing economies, causing more hunger, poverty, low wages, and unemployment. This Jurassic Fund (to borrow from Walden Bello) must go!
  5. Identify financial ‘White knights’. Authentic financial ‘white knights’ from among the emerging markets should be properly identified and urged to expand their operations. These financial groups can offer long-term financing at very low interest rates. The end-users should be authentic market players that are engaged in the productive sectors, which will end the practice of ‘white knight’ financing (such as the Yen Initiative Package) that lent money to financial cartels which in turn re-lent them at higher interest rates.
  6. Ban banks from speculative pursuits. Commercial banks and development banks, or all banks for that matter, must be banned from engaging in speculative pursuits such as hedge funds, commodities, and ‘hot money’ operations. Banks must service the productive sectors and must infuse moral philosophy in their organizational cultures.
  7. Abolish stock markets. Stock markets have never been instruments for wealth redistribution. They are filled with dirty operators. It’s now time to abolish them. In their stead should be instituted a direct link between investors and market players in need of fresh money, thus abolishing the stock trader as ‘middleman’. Reforming the stock markets isn’t the answer, but rather their abolition.
  8. Institute gold reserve standard. The gold standard of the past was abolished, in order that gold be hoarded by a few cartels up North. It is time to institute a new form of gold standard serving as stabilizer and securitization instrument for currencies. The standard will eventually lead to a re-institution of currency control policy which redounds to a more stable global economy in the long run.

Let it be reiterated, that should the present situation be allowed to go on, with piecemeal parochial solutions carved out at best, a bigger global catastrophe will be in the offing. A more colossal nightmare is now unfolding, which we hope the Northern countries’ incompetent bureaucrats can see at all.

[22 May 2010]








May 25, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Europe is on fire. Save for those who choose to be blind, the Union is going through an incendiary economic burn. How far will the economic burning go, whether it will spread to a larger continental inferno, no one can tell for now.

Before the EU’s creation, welfare policies were prevalent from east to west of the continent. Liberal reforms then arose, commencing with the Tory’s (Thatcher era) wholesale adoption and social marketing of the same, and copied by the conservatives and liberals of the continent alike.

By the turn of the century, upon the commencement of the Euro, liberal reforms already saw the uncontrollable ascent of predatory finance worldwide. Liberalized financial-capital markets paved the way for their immanence.

Among those instruments created by the predators was financial derivatives. To recall, a decade back the derivatives markets were already awash with exposures totaling over $150 Trillion, with 36% of these in the hands of British financiers while 15% were in Americans’ hands.

By 2001, the alarming projection was leaked out that derivatives will be inflated to exceed $350 Trillions within the new decade. At a time when the global economy was producing past the $40 Trillion in Gross World Product or GWP, it was sheer madness to consider debt papers of past $350 that could meltdown the globe in case of a gigantic bubble burst.

Europe was already flat on its back for a straight two (2) decades since after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Periodic stagflations and recessions have seen the rise of poverty incidence and, consequently, the re-emergence of neo-fascist movements.

Being strongly tied up to the U.S. economy, it was not surprising to realize that a contagion of the U.S. recession will surely hit Europe, which did happen. The ugly side of the formula was the aiding of ailing banks that were badly affected by the crisis, an intervention that was flawed and immoral as it entails using taxpayers’ money to aid criminal bank speculators.

Barely out of the U.S. contagion effect, Brussels was shocked to see that a new fire had started within the Eurozone— Greece to be exact. As this was happening, Spain also began to sneeze & cough, as some of its own banks (notably Santander) spiraled down bankruptcy scale. Other member-economies were also having their own financial crucifixions going by the early part of this current year.

If we diagnose what’s going on in the financial sectors of member states, we can easily pinpoint banks as hotspot fire sources. They were heavily into speculative pursuits, with enormous exposures to derivative operations.

Just exactly how that happened can be traceable to certain acts in the North by the mid-80s. Commodities markets have sprung up on that decade, even as a global recession took place then, threatening OECD economies. Liberal reforms were already permeating diverse sectors, and within the backdrop of liberalization, financial derivatives and equivalent portfolios were launched in mass scales.

Banks shed off their previous stance of inhibiting themselves from speculative pursuits. Soon they’d find themselves investing into every speculative games they could lay their hands into, inclusive of hedge funds operations.

Now, to fast track to the present, economists estimate that EU’s aggregate derivatives are within the range of $180-$200 Trillions, estimates that seem conservative. Measure this against the gross domestic product of EU at $13 Trillions, and you would be driven to ask: just exactly where will Europe get the funds to pay the hedged financials in case of bursts and massive bankruptcies?

If all of the hedge funds investors would ask for a forced payment of their total of, say, $200 Trillions more or less, who would pay for such debts? Where will the money come from? Is it morally right to extract taxes from European workers to pay up for the dirty debt papers in case? Is it likewise morally right to impose wage cuts on workers who were not the culprits in the virtual economy game in the first place?

Concerned Europeans should better rethink the Euro and ask whether the new currency really worked for their welfare. It is now clearer that the Euro was a sell-out idea and project, that it was launched to satiate the insatiable pockets of greedy financiers represented by the top financial houses there.

And Europeans better see how silly it is to allocate taxpayers’ money worth $1 Trillion to bail out ailing banks and industries hit by the rising meltdown. For measured against total debt papers of $180-200 Trillions, $1 Trillion would be ridiculously paltry.

Yet another ridiculous intervention is the austerity measure imposed by the IMF on Greece. We’ve had so many precedents of the deleterious effects of such measures on developing economies that aimed at eventually graduating from IMF programs as a salvation measure in the short run. While emerging markets are getting out of a burning house (IMF & austerity measures), Greece voluntarily entered this house. Unbelievable!

As per reports reaching my focals, Germany had the greatest exposures to Greece’s banking sector, with exposures running to hundreds of billions of euros. British financiers, on the other hand, have their hands full in Spain’s banks.

It isn’t difficult to forecast that the fire in Greece could spread to other eurozone economies. Not even the UK, which decided to stay out of the eurozone, will be spared from the bonfire. Spain is almost there now, and who knows what country will be next.

If banks and industrial conglomerates will simultaneously burn in all of the member-states of the eurozone, with total aid claims of past the GDP of $13 Trillions, then Europe will be on the brink of a continental inferno.

Concerned readers better think for yourself whether Brussels and the bureaucrats do have the right answers to the raging problems of Europe. Poverty incidences are now hitting past the 20% mark in member countries, while massive lootings of the financial and currency markets by predatory financiers take place every day in the continent.

Well, let’s all wait and see for what happens. Let us hope that a mad Nero bureaucrat wouldn’t appear to orchestrate the burning farther to infernal scale. That would bring a new nightmare to the whole planet if it happens.

[Philippines, 20 May 2010]







May 23, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening! Magandang gabi! Buenas noches!

The Red Shirts phenomenon in Thailand seems to baffle many observers world-wide. Accustomed as they are to seeing Thailand as a nation in moderation, they just couldn’t believe that a revolt just took place right at the heart of the nation: Bangkok.

Conditioned as they were by Establishment media, they continue to peddle the same blind thought about the Red Shirts as cult followers of the former premier Thaksin Shinavatra. True, the Red Shirts exalt the former premier to the pinnacle of heroism. But there’s more to the Red revolt than Thaksin, and those blind observers better rethink their nauseating contentions.

Thailand, like the rest of the developing world, tied up its economy to the global economy with great exuberance. The Thai state showed fidelity in instituting liberal reforms that quickly encumbered the country to the global economy and therefore played themselves into the hands of the financial cartels and ‘military industrial elites’ of the North.

By mid-1990s, it was clear that Thailand had departed from the cherished principles of the general welfare, the same principle that  transformed backward regions into economic powers. The same cherished doctrines, which one finds in the teachings of spiritual masters (P.R. Sarkar, Vivekanda, Gandhi, Buddha, Baha’ullah, Sri Aurobindo), are also the ‘philosopher’s stone’ that can redistribute wealth to the greater masses.

Departing from those cherished principles would clearly spell the following hazards: (a) de-industrialization, agriculture decay, and mass lay offs; (b) destruction of national currencies upon their total subordination to currency markets dictated by the speculative maneuverings of global financiers; (c) huge income inequalities between the middle-to-upper brackets and the poorer working classes and rural food producers.

It is not surprising that in June 1997, Bangkok was the site of the 1st spark of currency attacks in the region by the cabal of George Soros & pals. What followed next was the Asian financial meltdown, and the rest was history.

Bangkok, or its technocratic-oligarchic coalition of rulers, sadly departed from the very teachings of the Lord Gautama who, 2,600 years back, showed the way to ‘right livelihood’ and proper living. The same oligarchic-technocratic elites likewise departed from the post-war interventionist policies that led to the re-structuring of its economy and could have, with more institutional strengthening, led to poverty elimination and a materialized ‘middle class dream’ for the Thais.

The revolt waged by the Red Shirts is therefore a re-declaration of the commitment to noble principles of the public welfare taught by the spiritual masters of the East. They were among those excluded from the globalization game, eking a life amid abundance accruing on select urban habitués and oligarchs.

Meantime, Thailand’s own oligarchs have clearly integrated their wealth pursuits to those of the global financial cartels, and their wealth keep on growing at the expense of the masses. King Bhumibol himself leads in the massive wealth accumulation as his exemplars, the royal houses of England and Netherlands, have taught his family the way to unhampered accumulation via a regime of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation.

The Royal Family in Thailand must be assessed by its own people whether it stood up clearly for the general welfare during its reign. Whether the same family still stands for Thailand’s interest, or for the interest of their personal pockets and those of their friends in the global oligarchy.

The Red Shirts, as I see it, is part of a worldwide chain of mass revolts against the global oligarchy whose godless global economy has been encumbering more folks down pauperism and hunger. It is much related to the people’s protests today in Greece that is suffering from the same greedy pursuits of the global oligarchs and austerity measures of the IMF.

Even if all of the revolting Red Shirts in Thailand were annihilated today, their termination will not mean death to the anti-oligarchy movement across the globe and in Bangkok. Justice is on the side of the Red Shirts no matter how violent and crude they may have behaved in the Big City.

It is doubtful whether the bureaucrats in Bangkok will manifest the political will to clip the powers of the local oligarchy, redistribute patrimonial wealth equitably, and reverse free market/free trade policies. The same bureaucrats, led by the British-twanged premier, are enjoying the fruits of their partnership with the oligarchy, so where does that lead them to?

Mark my word well: there will be more Red Shirt revolts across the globe with the passing of the months ahead. Let me repeat: the months ahead. The anti-globalization/anti-oligarchy wasn’t invented by the Red Shirts of Thailand, as they are merely among the embodiments of the ethos of the public welfare that is a global phenomenon as well.

Lucky enough if King Bhumibol and his minions of oligarchs will survive the judgement that will be cast upon them by struggling Thais in the months ahead. Bhumibol should better reflect on the Nepal experience: the handwriting on the wall of oligarchic monarchs and cronies.

[Philippines, 20 May 2010]







May 20, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening! Magandang gabi!

The dark clouds of the electoral contests are now getting clearer in the Philippines. With our polls settled and our elected leaders about to begin their mandates, I’d now depart from election-related advocacies and move back to the international-global arenas.

I have written quite enormously about international political economy and subsidiary themes for over two (2) decades. Even my blogging has been consumed with peregrinations on the international arena. So let me go back to this arena, even as I now clarify that I am a strong advocate of One ASEAN.

As I’ve elucidated in my past writings (see 2007-08 articles), I perceive the ASEAN as the larger polity to which my own country will return in the future.

The Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, the whole of island Southeast particularly, were largely creations of Western powers. They used to be part of the Majapahit Empire, the world’s wealthiest region before Western colonization fragmented it.

Being a strong believer in ASEAN unity, I am willing to shed off my hard-line Filipino nationalism and don the cloak of pan-ASEAN patriotism. Majapahit was the original nation to me and to those who resonate with the same worldview, and eager am I to see my country return to the Empire.

The Empire no longer bears that name today. Rather, it goes by the name of ASEAN, short for Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But it bears the same geo-political and geo-economic contours of the Empire before it fragmented.

A benevolent Empire it was, as it used the fiat of trade cooperation to get membership into the polity. That is, to be able to become a part of the Empire, concur trade with its nexus and prinzeps. This was a much different track from the typical military occupation used by other regional and world powers to expand their territorial confines.

If we reflect back on what our state players are doing here today, where they’re concurring agreements and treaties using the most civil means conceivable to get to a higher level of unity, the same means actually revives the consensus methods used by our peoples in antiquity. Today, no matter how diverse our political, economic, and cultural systems are, we are talking to each other here, which is reflective of a ‘dialogues of civilizations’ approach.

From state-to-state and civil society-to-civil society talks, let us move on to direct people-to-people talks in the region. People-to-people interactions precede people-to-people cooperations. I strongly contend that people-to-people cooperation should eventually be the base for state-to-state and civil society-to-civil society cooperation and no less.

State-to-state talks are quite slow in results, even if market players joined state actors to buttress the former stakeholders’ positions. In some areas of talks, such as those involving territories, snags are observed.

People-to-people interactions and cooperation will do much to accelerate state-to-state talks that get snagged for one reason or another. The same cooperation can also accelerate the building of a pan-ASEAN identity which should precede any writing of a general treaty that will unify the region at least economically.

People-to-people interactions have already been taking place in the region for almost 2000 years in fact. Western colonization may have diminished the scales of interactions for a long while, but that era of imperialism is much behind us now.

As states, market players, and civil society players are preparing for larger talks ahead, let us noble peoples of the region go ahead and expand the levels of talks to build greater mutual confidence, appreciation of each other’s cultures, and trust. Along the way, we have fellow Asians and global citizens who will support our efforts as true friends.

In any way we can, let us get to know each other better. Let’s set aside utilitarian gains (e.g. get to know Asean pals who can become network marketing partners) and interact based on a true call of our hearts, of our souls.

That way, we contribute to building our preparedness for the grand future coming. We just can’t be caught flat-footed, not knowing what’s going on in our larger backyard because we allowed state players to monopolize the talks.

Fellow ASEANians, let’s get ready!

[Writ – Philippines, 11 May 2012. E. Argonza is adept at international political economy. He was a graduate student of former ASEAN Deputy Secretary General Wilfrido Villacorta, PhD. He has published various articles on the subject, as well as a book on global trade regime.]







May 16, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Magandang hapon! Good afternoon!

It is still poll day as of this writing, as the day’s polling time has been extended till 7 p.m. Poll-related incidence had accordingly dropped by 200% since 2004, an encouraging development amidst a backdrop of systemic violence.

What I’d reflect about this time is the insurgency question: whether the country’s decades-old insurgencies will cease after the installation of a new national leadership. The communist and Bangsamoro insurgents have been conducting peace talks with the Philippine state for a long time now, and there’s no question that insurgencies’ end is in the wish list of diverse stakeholders.

In a society where trust has been torn asunder by the prevalence of polarized mind frames for centuries now, it is understandable that insurgencies will persist for some time. Building mutual trust and confidence is therefore a sine qua non to the end of insurgencies.

Economistic apperceptions of insurgencies, such as to account them solely to high poverty incidence, would hardly hold water. Canada, for instance, is a prosperous country with good governance in place, yet a part of it (Quebec) almost bolted away from the Canadian state.

Addressing poverty, which is now at 33-35% incidence rate, is surely a must, added to food security. There is no denying that this has been on the agenda of peace talks, aside from the options for the livelihood of combatant insurgents when they go back to the mainstream in the case of a political settlement.

What we can see from the economistic discourse is that addressing poverty and social injustices would be good approaches to re-building trust and confidence.  During the first two (2) years of the new political dispensation, there has to be a trickling down of incomes to enable poverty reduction, which should convince the insurgents of the sincerity and competence of the leadership in handling the socio-economic malaise of our society.

Furthermore, there has to be relentless efforts made by civil society, church, state, and philanthropic groups to build a culture of tolerance and peace. Peace talks shouldn’t be left to government and insurgents alone, in other words, but should involve the broadest sector of society.

The building of mutual trust, confidence, and contextual building of peace and tolerance, will redound to constructing greater civility and cooperation. A ‘dialogue of civilizations’ is a broad manifestation of a culture of peace and tolerance permeating the private sphere, which is a cherished human condition by the peoples of the world.

Insurgents are incidentally growing old, and are getting weary of the war itself. They want peace, and this is a boon to the peace talks. In our day-to-day conduct of affairs as a people, we should continue to build trust in the private spaces of our lives. This, we hope, would encourage insurgents to forge new social arrangements with us on a people-to-people basis, a step that would bring us closer to a high-trust environment.

We must also continue to exert pressure on the Phiippine state and insurgents to continue to dialogue and put a time limit to the peace talks. Peace talks have already dragged on for decades, so maybe it would prove fruitful to put a time cap on the talks. We can use organizational instruments that we have, such as professional, crafts, and civil society groups.

Let us hope that we don’t have a hawkish regime forthcoming. A regime of hawks would be anachronistic to the overall trend today of higher expectations for peace and a sustained dialogue between state and insurgents.

We are all running against time today, even as we citizens of an war-torn country are tired and weary of the wars. New weapons of mass destruction, such as the Tesla Earthquake Machine or TEM, are moving out of assembly lines, and sooner or later they would be traded via organized crime groups to hot-headed insurgent and jihadist groups locally.

A wish indeed, let us hope that the two (2) insurgencies will be settled finally, with the former rebels integrated into the mainstream to participate in parliamentary politics and civil society engagements. This will give us breathing spaces we need to concur more social cooperation and economic amelioration in the short run.

With the large insurgencies gone, the police & military forces can then focus their efforts on clamping down jihadist movements that we perceive as illegitimate or criminal groups. In no way should government negotiate with groups that possess warped sense of community and are unwilling to recognize the full import of dialogue and tolerance.

[Philippines, 10 May 2010.]







May 13, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good afternoon! Magandang hapon!

I’ve been writing about the Philippine poll exercise since December of 2009 yet, as well as social issues that have direct bearing on the agenda of governance of political groups and candidates. The poll canvassing is ending tonight, and so will I end my notes too about the matter. Suffice me to write just one more piece before I move on to other substantive topics.

I am experiencing a sense of fulfillment with the polls here in the Philippines. It is the first automated polls in history, and despite the glitches and isolated violence cases, the poll exercise has been a fairly successful one. I’d grade it at 2.00 or 80%.

Being an advocate of the nationalist agenda, an agenda that is progressive in my country, I was inclined to support a group or coalition of candidates whose platforms are based on economic nationalism and the general welfare principles that redound to a prosperous people and strong nation.

The coalition I supported seems to have won just about 25% of national seats (prex & vp lost, 4 senators won), and I have no complete picture yet of the local level performances. Nonetheless, I am wholeheartedly accepting the outcome of the polls, even if my top exec choices lost.

I’d say to my fellow nationalists who lost the polls: better luck next time. Oil your machineries well, wage an ideology-based campaign from beginning to end, and be prepared for the next battle. We have fellows who won, let them maneuver within the confines of the public sphere (legislative & executive arenas) to advance the nationalist agenda bit by bit.

I have no sympathy at all for the winning presidential candidate, Noynoy Aquino, for reasons I’ve already advanced in many past articles. But for the sake of harmony and unity of purpose, I am willing to give his leadership a chance to show mettle and deliver the ‘public goods’ demanded of his leadership, for a period of one (1) year from his oath-taking.

I’d extend my own congratulatory notes to the Commission on Elections, SmartMatic (automation contracting party), PPCRV (watchdog group), various political parties, civil society groups, and all the stakeholders involved in the polls for the overall success of the electoral contest.

True, there’s a 20% gap in the contest that is accounted by isolated violence, vote buying, jammed electoral machines, and other related glitches. The gaps should be properly itemized and addressed to ensure a better performance comes 2013, the next poll season (assuming that there will be one by then).

To the new leaders, most especially at the national level, may you have the prudence and political will to solve our lingering and emerging problems. You just may not have all the time in the world to solve them, but go ahead and fulfill what you can deliver within the limits of your respective mandate.

Good luck to the new national leadership! Peace and prosperity to my fellow Filipinos!

[Philippines, 11 May 2010]