Posted tagged ‘Keynes’

LAISSEZ FAIRE VERSUS DIRIGISM: PARADIGMS AND FAIRY TALES

December 18, 2014

LAISSEZ FAIRE VERSUS DIRIGISM: PARADIGMS AND FAIRY TALES

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Across the continents, where markets have predominance in the economic sphere, there has always been the antipodal tendentialities of laissez faire and dirigisme. The bone of contention has been the state’s role in the economy. These tendentialities have surely represented two (2) hard-line oppositional streams.

Mercantilism, the progenitor of dirigism, contended that regulation should govern production, distribution, consumption and exchange. The (interventionist) state should be at the center of regulation, with the central goal of all economic pursuits being the accumulation of the wealth for King. Old Nationalism had held on to this contention, with the revision that wealth should be accumulated for the nation as a whole and no longer merely for the King, wealth that is correspondingly allocated to the folks in the form of wages and welfare (this ‘wealth for nation’ line is admittedly a concession to the Smithian physiocracy, a competitor discourse). Only the state, not the market, can best perform redistributive responsibilities for welfare, jobs and wages. Necessarily, development should be undertaken with strong state regulations in the four intervention areas mentioned. The Keynesian revolution revived the dirigist contention, using a demand-side premise, and held sway across the globe for around half a century since its inception.

Laissez faire, whose earliest articulators were the physiocrats, opposed dirigist doctrines with extreme zeal. Accordingly, the state should only intervene in matters of defense, justice and public works, and should keep its hands off the market. Accumulating wealth is a matter of private sector concern (industrialists and landlords), while free trade must be the condition of international exchange and distribution. Even matters of welfare must be left to market mechanisms to provide. Development efforts, i.e. the ones undertaken by ‘3rd world’ economies, must follow the laissez faire path. The logic behind the contention is that the market will produce the entrepreneurs who will be enticed to embark on bold ventures should they be left on their own to take off ‘infantile enterprises’.

The problem arises when, due to the predominance of non-market mechanisms, such as clientelist relations and redistribution-based exchange systems (haciendas, latifundia), development could hardly take off at all. In cases where entrepreneurs are of residual numbers, such as the one demonstrated by Philippine experience, laissez faire strategies would prove pathetic in results. This entrepreneurial scarcity had justified the adoption of dirigist policy frameworks, the principle ones being those that guided the ‘import substitution industrialization’ of 1947-1968. Various 3rd world states have sponsored the dirigist path, employing diverse models (socialist, mixed market-socialist), with fairly good results for many of them. The articulators of such states have argued that no country had ever prospered thru the laissez faire route, and that laissez faire can only work out when development had reached a highly mature level when consumerism propels growth, and where economic fundamentals are very strong and stable.

Many developing economies actually encountered tremendous snags as their states chiefly sponsored development efforts. Rent-seekers of every kind appeared on the scene, serving as barriers to the effective entry of possible investors from among potential competitors. In the Philippine case, asset reform in the agrarian sector had been a perennial failure, thus further complicating the already complex maize of structural problems. What happened, according to the defenders of laissez faire doctrines, was that dirigisme made the ensconced patrimonial groups become further entrenched, thus leading to a vicious cycle of slow growth, high poverty, high unemployment, and relative stagnation.

Such a situation served as the impetus for embracing neo-liberal reforms over the last twenty-five (25) years by the developing economies, the Philippines included. Laissez faire returned with a vengeance, popularizing free trade in the international sphere, and structural adjustments in the domestic sphere and public sector, to note: liberalization, deregulation, privatization, liberalized currency markets/devaluation, down-sizing, minimal/residual fiscal stimulus & budgets for social services, tax reforms and decentralization. Such a policy regime of ‘structural adjustments’ were instrumental in integrating national markets into a globalized one where there is freer flow of tradable goods, investments, information and labor. Not only that, the antipathy of foundational physiocracy towards manufacturing (biased for agriculture) returned, as cheap imports (owing to liberalized trade) destroyed established industries leading to ‘de-industrialization’.

Where are we twenty-five (25) years after instituting market reforms under the aegis of ‘structural adjustments’ (note: we began through the ‘structural adjustment loans’ of the World Bank, c. 1979)? National income continues to grow at dismally low rates, poverty had increased during the latter phase of the reforms (decreased only recently), unemployment remains high amid positive growth, and our developmental stage continues to be stuck up in the ‘growth stage’ (failed to reach ‘maturity’). Globalization, with its attendant ‘structural adjustment’ policies, has weakened nations, even caused fragmentation in others, a fact that had likewise been replicated in the Philippines with its separatist movements. Free trade had destroyed domestic industries (the USA case was hit so hard by this one), as some had to fold up (Marikina shoes exemplifies the Philippine case) and transfer elsewhere (Procter & Gamble-Philippine is an example). With weak or nil ‘safety nets’, chances are that many producers (e.g. fruits, vegetables) will lose against cheaply-priced imports. One thing is clear for the case of many developing economies, including the Philippines: market reforms failed miserably to get them to development maturity, even as it set back the development path of others.

So if both dirigisme and laissez faire have been failing in making life better for the nation and the majority of the people, what discourse than can work out to salve the ailments of most developing states? Expectedly, a ‘renaissance of nation-states’ has become the wave of the present, with many of its articulators defending a return to dirigisme in its old form—in its highly protectionist form. I used to be among such articulators, even as I now argue that Old Nationalism can have deleterious results when pushed to the extremes. We can’t wish globalization away, it is here to stay and galvanize some more, even as it challenges us all to path-find the opportunities that it can offer while neutralizing the threats that could result from it. In other words, re-echoing Herr Reich’s and Mdm Arroyo’s elucidations on the subject, I am now wont to advocate for a New Nationalism or neo-nationalism, a discourse that advances beyond the narrow confines of extremist dirigisme and laissez faire.

Let me move next to the key premises and contentions of ‘new nationalism’-Philippine style.

[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004. For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]

Advertisements

2009 ECONOMIC FORECASTS: DEPRESSION, INTERVENTIONISM, REVERSAL

January 26, 2009

Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang hapon! Good afternoon!

2009 will be another bleak year economically, more so for the North (USA, EU, Japan are topmost). The recession that began with the subprime mortgage bubble burst in America in 07, will ensue with even mightier turbulence, as there are no coherent policy solutions of a strategic nature that can salve the economic ailment on a global scale.

As already articulated by this economist/analyst in various articles, the policy environment must be changed and regulatory mechanisms strengthened to immediately gain business confidence and reverse the tide of catastrophe. On the domestic front, the solution begins by following a New Deal type of policy set, which will bring back the fervor of production-driven growth and full employment. On the international/global front, a new financial architecture must be agreed upon via a global summit called for the purpose, akin to a New Bretton Woods.

The only intervention mechanisms we observe today are bailouts of failing financial and business institutions, which are toxically immoral as those criminal oligarchs are even rewarded for their sordid looting and corrupt practices. Only Russia and China have openly resorted to a New Deal type solution, in consonance with the practices of the late regime of Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the USA. As far as the international-global front is concerned, the concurrence of a new treaty that will resonate a new financial architecture is nowhere in sight.

In the absence of genuine solutions that can stabilize ailing economies on both the domestic and international fronts, the downward spirals will continue, until the economies of the North will hit rock bottom depression that will be worse than the one that crashed the USA, UK and Germany almost a century ago (USA, UK, Germany were then the world’s top industrial & military powers). In the absence of capital control policies up North, capital flight will ensue at dizzying speed, draining their respective countries of trillions of dollars and/or euros at levels far higher than the 2008 drain.
The smart money that will sneak out will find better shelters in the South (emerging markets notably East Asia + India).

The possibility of North-based companies transferring their headquarters to the South is not entirely ruled out. The other option is for the corporate owners to transfer domicile from the North to the South, leaving their ailing mother companies in the hands of trusted stewards. The era of distance remote control-type management by corporate owners could very well begin this year, which will modify corporate governance by no small means.

The positive light for the global economy is that finally the corporate and state leaders will see light at the end of the tunnel and call for a global conference to carve out a new financial architecture. Laissez faire, a cadaver doctrine before the 2nd world war that was revived by the monetarists and greedy financiers, will finally lay to rest as it gives way to dirigist or interventionist economics.
Stronger regulatory mechanisms may be charted this year too, at least on paper.

New Deal, Keynesian, and welfare state doctrines will be blended together to produce an eclectic admixture. Since New Deal has an international facet into it thus rendering it more comprehensive, as the late FDR cogitated the need for international cooperation and development for all countries to end all wars and foment lasting peace, this doctrine will more or less be followed. We will not be surprised if, after the Davos conference, the shape of the future will already be definitively of the New Deal type.

Conclusively, even if the Northern economies will flatten down to zero and/or negative growths, the downward spiral may stop by the last quarter of the year. The full effects of the intervention solutions won’t be felt this year though, as it will take some more years to get them to galvanize. So let us brace for more turbulent winds, while hoping that the storm would finally stop so we can enjoy a delightful holiday season comes December.

[26 January 2009, Quezon City, MetroManila]

GLOBAL TOTALITARIAN POLICE-STATE & TECHNOTRONIC SOCIETY: EXTENDING CAPITALIST LIFE

September 19, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Let me go back to the question of what lies ahead of us—when ‘late’ capitalism dies and yet capitalism will be extended.  I am not discounting the possibility that capitalism’s life span will be extended, but this will no longer be ‘late’ capital, just to remind everyone.

You better fasten your seat belts, as the stormy days ahead will come for sure, and as this heraldry from me will sound as stormy already as those times ahead. Stormy heraldry, because (a) you will not come to like it and that (b) its impact will be so nauseating and revolting that you’d rather sedate yourself most quickly with wine, liquor, pot or anything that can reduce that revulsion. I forgot, for the fundamentalists, you’d pray for hours to allay your fears.

By the time ‘late’ capital arrived up to the current juncture, or roughly the whole of the post-Great Depression era, the following developments have come about:

·        State intervention/planning was infused into the system. Post-war former colonies proceeded on their industrial development tracks along this dirigist market model. The USA and Europe were saved from collapsing, emerging markets appeared.

 

·        Market reforms were later introduced, bringing back free market and free trade principles. Centrally planned economies China and Vietnam infused market reforms to construct a ‘social market’ model, while former socialist states folded up in Eastern Europe and 3rd world states.

 

·        The era of ‘mad economics’ resulted from the system integration efforts of ‘instrumental reason’. The dividing line between the rational and the mad in decision-making and system maintenance was effectively deconstructed and erased. In esoteric-mystical argot, this era is the period of the Demonic Mind, the era of Anti-Christ.

 

·        ‘Virtual economy’ based on predatory financial practices of creating values from out of money flows (rather than from concrete production) was exemplified by ‘bubble economies’. Bubble bursts were followed by destructive, catastrophic crises and shrinkages of affected economies.

 

·        Nation-states’ economies came to be integrated into a single economy, via globalization. A planetary economy was already institutionalized, yet no planetary state exists to regulate conduct of commerce and business at a global level. The contradiction between the norms of the planetary economy and the interests of the nation-state has led in no small measure to the fragmentation of nation-states and  emergence of mini-states. Globalization has been undermining the nation-state in general.

 

·        All of such developments will hyper-converge in the months ahead in a general system crisis characterized by hyper-inflation, great depression, and total system collapse. As the economist Lyndon LaRouche correctly perceived, that collapse phase is now taking place at a rapid rate.

 

·        Wars and hostilities are intensifying across the globe. Surrogate wars of world powers have also been rehearsed, such as the Georgia-Russia conflict. All of these conflicts will hyper-converge in a World War III or intercontinental war, the duration of which no one can forecast so easily.

 

So, going back to the issue, if the ‘virtual economy’ cannot be sustained and its collapse will bring the final death blow on ‘late’ capital, is it possible to extend capitalism’s life span? Yes, the possibility is very likely. But the context emerging from the resolution of the general global crisis will hardly resemble what you’ve ever seen before nor imagine.

First of all, the consolidation of the system and attempts to prolong it can never take place without draconian police state tactics. As Lenin correctly emphasized, the dividing line between liberalism and fascism is a superficial one. Neo-fascism will become the political modality in order to save capitalism and bring it to its next phase. State terror heretofore untold will unravel the old order of things and bring the ‘new world order’ into place, resulting to pogroms that will dwarf both Hitler’s ‘final solution’ and Stalin’s ‘purges’ combined.

The possibility of a global state will finally become granite rock, with the United Nations most likely the base for creating that global regulatory mechanism governed by a demonic ‘world rule of law’. This global state will have its own military and police forces, and will have no qualms in quelling dissent and enforcing global fiats in order to bring forth the ‘new world order’.

The global corporations of the moment, whose assets and revenues are already so huge that they dwarf those of nation-states’, will all the more become gigantic. The same corporations will then declare their respective turfs among region-states and city-states that will be created from the dismantled nations. Each mega-corporation will be endowed with its own private army, akin to the British East India Company or BEIC of old, of professional mercenaries beholden to no state but to the corporation, but which can be mandated by the global state to engage hostile forces in other regions and cities.

The era of New Feudalism will then ensue from the social and urban-ecological arrangements emerging. The era of ancient Florence, Venice, or city-states with their own respective armies and ruled by powerful commercial families, will come back though in more sophisticated vogue. The competing powerful & wealthy city-states will then give rise to new conflicts in the form of ‘wars of the cities’, much akin to the ancient Greek city-states’ conflicts. Before this century’s end, no more nations shall exist, but rather a world of cities and regions integrated largely through the mediative and regulative planetary state. Weaker cities and regions will become the vassals of powerful cities and corporate groups, at a time when technology will even be more revolutionary. The New Feudalism will be based on an integration of capital and information, contrasted to the Old Feudalism that was based on land.  

As soon as 3rd phase cybernetics will conclude, and probably a 4th phase will begin, which will all the more erase the barrier between human and machine, the envisioned Technotronic Society will become the manifest order. Cyborgs and machines will then become perfected and endowed with quasi-human intelligence, while those humans with weak minds will be totally controlled via perfected chips, mega-computers, and new cybernetic systems. Large numbers of subhuman ‘Manchurian candidates’ or MCs will become the docile slave labor of the day, well fed and provided for, but whose behavior will be totally programmed and re-programmable.

That technoronic society of the neo-feudal capitalist ‘new world order’, or simply Technotronic capitalism, was fitfully described and forecast in the film series Matrix and Terminator. As 3rd phase cybernetics is advancing today in laboratory incubators of the North, cybernetics that will dismantle the barrier between human and machine, the possibility of an early arrival of that dreaded machine-controlled ‘new world order’ has become concrete. The question is no longer ‘will technotronics come’, but rather ‘when will it come’? Matrix and Terminator are no film fantasies but are rather scientific extrapolations based on existing and developing cybernetic principles.

So, fellows out there, would you count yourself among the fanatical supporters of ‘capitalist life-span extension’, or would you rather opt for a new economy & society other than the ‘new world order’ that has been engineered by the global oligarchy? Or, would you rather be silent about the matter, as the ‘silence of the lambs’ means the Keynesian “In the long run, all of us will be dead!” Caput!

Let me now end here. Suffice that I shared my notes about the possible extension of the favorite economy of the pro-capitalists or the most abhorred society by capitalism’s detractors. At least I didn’t fail to show you the possibilities, I being a sociologist and economist who learned from my thinker mentors the craft of social forecasting or ‘futurology’.

Till next writing! Adios! Adieu! Paalam! Farewell! 

[23 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]

ANOTHER GREAT DEPRESSION COMING AS FINANCIAL SYSTEM ENDS

August 18, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Is the global economy moving downward towards a devastating collapse?

If we employ a long-term Kondratieff cycle to model the world economy, we can see that the period beginning in 1935 approximately (when the big market economies US-UK-Germany moved towards another cycle of growth approximately after the Great Depression, should have ended around 1995 approximately, after which comes another great depression.

As early as 1989, ramblings of a global collapse began to murmur in the US economy. Mexico, Japan, Argentina, and other economies followed in the 1990s, while Europe went through a general low-growth trend that was the most sustainable for the continent as a whole. Then came the Asian meltdown of 1997. Then the USA again went through a recession in 2001, a pattern that has been repeated again from 2008 to the present. It seems that the pillars of the world economy couldn’t get out of a short-term crisis without having to crash back to another episode of short-term crisis altogether.

Is it really a ‘short-term’ crisis in the first place? Or is it in fact a ‘systemic crisis’, and that the financial downspin the Northern economic pillars are going through could very well be the terminal phase of a very long cycle of growth that began after the end yet of the Treaty of Westphalia (1648)? That in fact, several long-wave Kondratieff cycles have already passed over since that time, and that finally the system is DEAD in the wood?

Well, not only the financial system but the whole of CAPITALISM is already on its death throes. Those oligarchs behind the systems now dying won’t see the systems they built die down just that without “bringing down the other houses” with them, it seems. Which means that, right after the terminal phase of the system, another huge, catastrophic war will come, which will later see another Westphalian-type treaty or so that will re-carve the contours of polities into a Post-Westphalian totalitarian technotronic global order.

Below is a briefer from the Executive Intelligence Review that summarizes the issue at hand.   

[18 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to Executive Intelligence Review database news.]

End of the Line for Financial System; Bankruptcy Issue Raised

Aug. 10, 2008 (EIRNS)—The death of the financial system was the implicit subject of several articles in the financial press over the weekend, reflecting the way reality is setting in and attitudes are changing.

  • “Investment banking is dying,” was the blunt statement by William Cohan, in a op-ed in today’s Washington Post entitled “The End of the Masters of the Universe?” Cohan says that the revenue streams of the investment banks are drying up, and that there is genuine fear in the corridors of power on Wall Street.
  • “We have a banking crisis and an agency crisis and a mortgage crisis and a coming credit card crisis. We’ve never seen anything like that before. And it all seems to be coming home to roost at the same time. That’s never happened either,” Charles Geisst, a professor of finance at Manhattan University, told yesterday’s Washington Post. He said the Great Depression was the last time the financial markets were hammered by such a variety of factors, adding: “But we did not even have credit cards in the 1930s; there was no such thing as student loans.”
  • The specter of generalized bankruptcy was raised by Yale finance professor Robert J. Shiller in an op-ed in the New York Times. Citing the failure of Bear Stearns and the government measures to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Shiller asks, “What if the next case is worse? No one in government seems to feel a responsibility for warning about such possibilities and formulating a detailed policy for dealing with them.” Shiller says that “Bankruptcy law is a good place to start. After all, the dreaded financial meltdown would amount to a wave of bankruptcies…. What would happen to the economy if hedge funds had to liquidate, one after another, in a financial crisis? We need to rethink the theory and practice of bankruptcy, given the new complexities.”

Shiller points to the inherent limitations in current bankruptcy laws, which were largely drawn to protect narrow financial interests, and are poorly suited to deal with systemic problems, when a “subsidized system of triage would be needed to identify which companies should be saved, with the main criterion being the possible economic impact of their liquidation.”

These comments, taken as a whole, represent the way discussions of the “unthinkable” are beginning to percolate, and converge upon the outlook of Lyndon LaRouche. Shiller’s mention of triage by bankruptcy echoes the emergency measures proposed by LaRouche, of putting the financial system itself through bankruptcy, protecting the population with a firewall, and freezing the financial paper while we determine what debts will, and won’t, be honored. Whatever Shiller may think about LaRouche’s proposals, he is implicitly admitting that the system is finished, and that we must prepare for its demise, making decisions on the basis of the interests of society, and not merely the narrow interests of financial institutions. Reality is setting in, and reality leads inexorably to the policies outlined by LaRouche. 

US WATCH: INFRASTRUCTURE DECAY, NEEDS MASSIVE REDEVELOPMENT

July 19, 2008

Erle Frayne  Argonza

A bridge has fallen, the Mississipi river flooded Orleans like some pathetic third world city, airports are too cramped up as they are incapable of containing the surge in passenger & cargo levels, the East Coast experienced the emergency shut down due to grid overload (causing massive blackout), railway tracks are thinning out and overall capacity is on downward trend, and more.

They seem to be unrelated, but for economists and sociologists the trends all tell the same story. Pieced up together, they indicate crumbling infrastructures. Not because the structural engineers of America are sloppy, and definitely not that the heavy equipment sector couldn’t provide quality machines to reinforce the burgeoning infrastructure need of the juggernaut US economy.

The true story is that, as the economy shifted to the ‘virtual economy’, there was the systematic abandonment of infrastructure as a priority for fiscal and budgetary allocations. “Leave that to the private sector!” was the slogan for infrastructure. Even the famed fast lanes of America are already being sold out one after the other to the highest bidders, financial speculators all led by the likes of Felix Rohatyn & partners, thanks to deregulation and liberalization.

The thing is, most of America’s major infrastructures—airports, wharfs, roads, bridges, dikes, dams, power distribution, and more public works—were built in the 50s and 60s yet, at the height of the post-war boom under the aegis of the New Deal. Such infrastructures now require massive renovation, with entire replacement for those decaying beyond salvaging.

Did the civil engineers of America speak about the matter clearly? They did, and they have been saying alarming things since the 1990s yet. At the height of the ‘bridge over troubled water’ fiasco, they came out with the report that ¼ of America’s roads and bridges needed major repairs and replacements as soon as possible.

The other sectors’ experts have spoken as well. In the airlines industry, no less than state officials have forewarned that if no renovations (toward expansion) will be done on airports in 10 years’ time, there will be major crisis in the airlines sector. The possibility of emerging markets overshooting the USA’s cutting edge in air transport delivery also looms ahead in the short run.

With no reversal of policies in sight, chances are that, in 20 years’ time, the USA will be an apocalyptic landscape of fallen bridges, impassable roads, rotten wharfs, fallen dikes and inoperable dams, rotten buildings left to nature, and forest cover claiming back once bustling cities.

Only a timely policy reversal can nip the apocalyptic future in the bud. That is, if the political bigwigs in the coming election—McCain and Obama—do their homework well, comprehend the problem deeply, and begin large-scale strategic solutions to colossal problems in infrastructures.

[Writ 06 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]  

NEW NATIONALISM: BASIC CONTENTIONS

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Culled from: E. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”]

 

Being an advocate of new nationalism or neo-nationalism, I outlined in the original article a number of contentions about this emerging ideology. I would prefer to treat the body of ideas as ‘policy framework’ than as ideology, given the new trend to veer away today from anything ideological.

 

1.      Strong nation can thrive and grow amid globalization.

2.      Make room for value-based and integrated frameworks.

3.      Go back to basic needs.

4.      Shift intervention from the ‘provider state’ to the ‘enabler state’.

5.      Promote synergy with civil society in the development path.

6.      People are the most important assets, revise accounting systems.

7.      Evolve from ‘capitalist markets’ to ‘social markets’.

8.      Continue to stimulate growth through the ‘physical economy’.

9.      Generate wealth from both external and domestic markets.

10.  Let ‘unbridled free trade’ give way to ‘fair trade’.

11.  Continuously open the market to external investors.

12.  Concur stewardships with communities affected by extractive industries.

13.  Strengthen national banking and the monetary system.

14.  Reform the international financial system.

 

I will elaborate on each of these contentions in some other pages later.

THE NEO-NATIONALIST THEME

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Excerpts. Revised edition, Quezon City, Feb. 2008. Original version writ August 2004.]

 

 

ECHOING THE NEO-NATIONALIST THEME

 

This paper echoes the emerging discourse referred to as New Nationalism. Note that various writers have formulated theories anchored on New Nationalism. Their theories out-rightly impact on public policy and development practice, such as the framework articulated by Robert Reich (see The Work of Nations). Here at home, economists such as Emmanuel De Dios have begun to echo themes of harmonizing nationalism and globalization.  

 

The framework base of this paper will be (a) political economy combined with (b) institutionalism. The current approach of comparative political economy had proved to be a very instructive one, this being the most central framework in development studies and public policy studies, with its analytics carried out through cross-national methodology. This approach will also be integrated with the emerging cross-disciplinal trend of institutionalism, a framework that was actually started by sociologists, and is particularly strong in studies on civil society & development, state-society synergy and organization theory.

 

Being an Asian, this analyst will also liberally subscribe to core tenets of Asian thinkers, notably Mahatma Gandhi’s. New Nationalism should as much as possible integrate the Eastern and Western theoretical streams to be able to find meaningful anchorage in the whole of the Asian continent.

 

It is hoped that the article will be of use to various end-users for reflective purposes, particularly to advocacy groups and state agencies that are in the process of rethinking   paradigms & issues revolving around public policy.

 

SCARCITY VERSUS ABUNDANCE: THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE

 

The Continental Divide—between Euro-America (Europe, North America, Latin America) and Asia-Pacific—is no mere geographical cleavage, but more importantly cultural-civilizational. In economic doctrines, the division lies in the core premise that underpins all other economic variables and the social class arrangements that constitute the base for appropriating the values of the totality of efforts of production, distribution, consumption and exchange. While Western thinkers premise economic realities on scarcity, the Eastern thinkers notably sages presuppose the same on abundance.

 

The foundational doctrines of Western political economy—mercantilism and physiocracy—were both premised on scarcity. All other doctrines that emerged thereafter, inclusive of socialism, neo-classicism and marginalism, proceeded from the same premise. The most popular socialist thinker, K. Marx, envisioned a society of abundance, rationalizing such a vision on the presumed reality of scarcity (of resources) and its attendant effect, mitigated by social structures, of pauperization on the proletariat. This ‘scarcity premise’ is indubitably a hallmark of Western discourse.

 

Eastern discourse raises questions about such a premise. Among all Eastern thinkers, it was Gandhi who most succinctly articulated the difference. To the folks of the East, daily living is a reality of abundance, such an abundance abetted by continuous resource materialization and allocation as graces from the transcendent spheres. With the caveat, to note, that people live according to their needs. Accordingly, the planet has more than enough for everyone’s needs, but not enough for everyone’s greed. What could be wiser today than the said dictum, so simple in structure yet so profound in substance? (Review also Buddhist economics, Sarkar’s ‘progressive utilization theory’, Sri Aurobindo’s vedic economics, Baha’i economics, Vivekananda’s socialist visions.)

 

I couldn’t but agree more with the Eastern discursive stream than with the Western ones. Why, let us query, do  Filipinos keep on eating the whole day, sliding inputs down their stomachs as much as five (5) times a day? And why don’t the Filipinos save surplus money at all (many folks don’t even maintain back accounts)? That is because deep within their psyche, in the antechambers of their ‘collective unconscious’, resides the presupposition of abundance. Mother earth provides, the country provides, so why save for tomorrow, and why not consume that which is offered unto you when you arrive as a visitor amongst the town & country folks, such offerings being graces from God and His most divine minions?

 

Among ancient islanders, it was a vice to store resources (savings) for oneself, as this is a hoarding practice. Reciprocity then was the economic norm of behavior. When a household cooks nilupak, and a surplus of the delicacy is gathered after the eating, then the virtuous behavior is to share the excess nilupak among neighbors and kins rather than hoard it; and, conversely, it was a vice (read: very bad behavior) to throw away (surplus) that which has been provided for by Bathala and the anitos.

 

Surely, economic theorizing that is so deeply steeped in Western streams will never get to the bottom of the reality of Filipino economic behavior. Flawed premises breed flawed models that consequently produce flawed explanatory constructs and flawed practices on the developmental sphere. To a great extent, the Filipinos continue to retain, rather unconsciously, the reciprocity-based ‘systems’ of antiquity, contributing in no small measure to their bayanihan mode of adaptation. This reciprocity helps them to survive disasters and permits them to adapt quickly to new environments that are strongly cash-based, such as urban centers. It is also the basis for creating Filipino ‘social capital’ (Peter Evans had articulated well on the principle) as human asset accretions arising from networks of volunteer social groups (civil society), the kind of capital that is a catalytic factor in various development endeavors.

 

New Nationalism may have to find an effective bridge between the two. What is sure for now is that the exchange systems of redistribution (feudalism) and markets (capitalism), both  imposed upon the islanders by Western empires, have undermined the Asian or ‘Islander Way’ of reciprocity premised on abundance. During the time of Gat J. Rizal, the islands were able to provide more than enough for everyone else, no matter how harsh the Latin-Hispanic feudal system was to the folks who were subsumed in its enclaves. Today, with over eighty (80) million people populating the archipelago, reality had assumed the scarcity mode, making us believe that scarcity has been the premise since antiquity.

 

The bridge between the East and West will be institutionalized through the popularization of a needs-based philosophy. However, the consumerism that is the hallmark of a revivified market strongly erodes a needs-based discourse. There surely is a dynamic tension between ‘basic needs’ and consumerism, and such a tension will be a chief definer of the premise’s compass in the succeeding decades.

 

LAISSEZ FAIRE VERSUS DIRIGISM: PARADIGMS AND FAIRY TALES

 

Across the continents, where markets have predominance in the economic sphere, there has always been the antipodal tendentialities of laissez faire and dirigisme. The bone of contention has been the state’s role in the economy. These tendentialities have surely represented two (2) hard-line oppositional streams.

 

Mercantilism, the progenitor of dirigism, contended that regulation should govern production, distribution, consumption and exchange. The (interventionist) state should be at the center of regulation, with the central goal of all economic pursuits being the accumulation of the wealth for King. Old Nationalism had held on to this contention, with the revision that wealth should be accumulated for the nation as a whole and no longer merely for the King, wealth that is correspondingly allocated to the folks in the form of wages and welfare (this ‘wealth for nation’ line is admittedly a concession to the Smithian physiocracy, a competitor discourse). Only the state, not the market, can best perform redistributive responsibilities for welfare, jobs and wages. Necessarily, development should be undertaken with strong state regulations in the four intervention areas mentioned. The Keynesian revolution revived the dirigist contention, using a demand-side premise, and held sway across the globe for around half a century since its inception.

 

Laissez faire, whose earliest articulators were the physiocrats, opposed dirigist doctrines with extreme zeal. Accordingly, the state should only intervene in matters of defense, justice and public works, and should keep its hands off the market. Accumulating wealth is a matter of private sector concern (industrialists and landlords), while free trade must be the condition of international exchange and distribution. Even matters of welfare must be left to market mechanisms to provide. Development efforts, i.e. the ones undertaken by ‘3rd world’ economies, must follow the laissez faire path. The logic behind the contention is that the market will produce the entrepreneurs who will be enticed to embark on bold ventures should they be left on their own to take off ‘infantile enterprises’.

 

The problem arises when, due to the predominance of non-market mechanisms, such as clientelist relations and redistribution-based exchange systems (haciendas, latifundia), development could hardly take off at all. In cases where entrepreneurs are of residual numbers, such as the one demonstrated by Philippine experience, laissez faire strategies would prove pathetic in results. This entrepreneurial scarcity had justified the adoption of dirigist policy frameworks, the principle ones being those that guided the ‘import substitution industrialization’ of 1947-1968. Various 3rd world states have sponsored the dirigist path, employing diverse models (socialist, mixed market-socialist), with fairly good results for many of them. The articulators of such states have argued that no country had ever prospered thru the laissez faire route, and that laissez faire can only work out when development had reached a highly mature level when consumerism propels growth, and where economic fundamentals are very strong and stable.

 

Many developing economies actually encountered tremendous snags as their states chiefly sponsored development efforts. Rent-seekers of every kind appeared on the scene, serving as barriers to the effective entry of possible investors from among potential competitors. In the Philippine case, asset reform in the agrarian sector had been a perennial failure, thus further complicating the already complex maize of structural problems. What happened, according to the defenders of laissez faire doctrines, was that dirigisme made the ensconced patrimonial groups become further entrenched, thus leading to a vicious cycle of slow growth, high poverty, high unemployment, and relative stagnation.

 

Such a situation served as the impetus for embracing neo-liberal reforms over the last twenty-five (25) years by the developing economies, the Philippines included. Laissez faire returned with a vengeance, popularizing free trade in the international sphere, and structural adjustments in the domestic sphere and public sector, to note: liberalization, deregulation, privatization, liberalized currency markets/devaluation, down-sizing, minimal/residual fiscal stimulus & budgets for social services, tax reforms and decentralization. Such a policy regime of ‘structural adjustments’ were instrumental in integrating national markets into a globalized one where there is freer flow of tradable goods, investments, information and labor. Not only that, the antipathy of foundational physiocracy towards manufacturing (biased for agriculture) returned, as cheap imports (owing to liberalized trade) destroyed established industries leading to ‘de-industrialization’. 

 

Where are we twenty-five (25) years after instituting market reforms under the aegis of ‘structural adjustments’ (note: we began through the ‘structural adjustment loans’ of the World Bank, c. 1979)? National income continues to grow at dismally low rates, poverty had increased during the latter phase of the reforms (decreased only recently), unemployment remains high amid positive growth, and our developmental stage continues to be stuck up in the ‘growth stage’ (failed to reach ‘maturity’). Globalization, with its attendant ‘structural adjustment’ policies, has weakened nations, even caused fragmentation in others, a fact that had likewise been replicated in the Philippines with its separatist movements. Free trade had destroyed domestic industries (the USA case was hit so hard by this one), as some had to fold up (Marikina shoes exemplifies the Philippine case) and transfer elsewhere (Procter & Gamble-Philippine is an example). With weak or nil ‘safety nets’, chances are that many producers (e.g. fruits, vegetables) will lose against cheaply-priced imports. One thing is clear for the case of many developing economies, including the Philippines: market reforms failed miserably to get them to development maturity, even as it set back the development path of others.

 

So if both dirigisme and laissez faire have been failing in making life better for the nation and the majority of the people, what discourse than can work out to salve the ailments of most developing states? Expectedly, a ‘renaissance of nation-states’ has become the wave of the present, with many of its articulators defending a return to dirigisme in its old form—in its highly protectionist form. I used to be among such articulators, even as I now argue that Old Nationalism can have deleterious results when pushed to the extremes. We can’t wish globalization away, it is here to stay and galvanize some more, even as it challenges us all to path-find the opportunities that it can offer while neutralizing the threats that could result from it. In other words, re-echoing Herr Reich’s and Mdm Arroyo’s elucidations on the subject, I am now wont to advocate for a New Nationalism or neo-nationalism, a discourse that advances beyond the narrow confines of extremist dirigisme and laissez faire.