Posted tagged ‘political economy’

NOYNOY: CROCODILES’ SMOKESCREEN

March 22, 2010

Prof. Erle Frayne D. Argonza

[07 January 2010]

Noynoy Aquino, presidential candidate of the Liberal Party, has been projecting an image of an anti-graft crusader for some couples of years now. To recall, he was cajoled by his Mama, the late president Corazon Aquino, to join the anti-GMA movement precisely on the issue of good governance.

After his Mama’s death, public sentiment blew the winds of electoral fortune for Noynoy to take on the Aquino’s unblemished mantle and run as president of the republic. Seeing this groundswell of public sympathy arising from his Mama’s departure, vested interests of every shade found a window of opportunity to reap future rewards as largesse of a would-be victorious campaign of Cory Aquino’s son.

Indeed, as shown by preliminary information that reached my ears late last year, Noynoy is surrounded by diverse vested interest groups that (a) couldn’t see each other eye-to-eye and (b) are in active search for a smokescreen for their largesse pursuits. Some of the leading elements were former Ramos- and Erap-era bureaucrats, while others served GMA during her early heydays. Some others represent ideological blocs that are known for their classic opportunism, obstructionism, factionalism, and ‘termite behavior’.

Anyone who is interested to do serious empirical studies on graft and rent-seeking is advised to start with the Noynoy camp. There are couples of circles surrounding Noynoy, all of which the bachelor has no control over.

• Friends and kins comprise a ring of influence-peddlers. This ‘circle’ alone comprises a diversity of “we-bulong” factions that somehow show a semblance of goodwill though on a superficial level. A Noynoy presidency would serve as bread-winning opportunity for the crocodiles within them, in case Noynoy wins.

• Experts comprise another ring of potential state carpetbaggers. While the first ring shows semblance of mutual goodwill, the experts’ ring hardly shows such goodwill at all. During the crafting of Noynoy’s platform, the factions couldn’t even see each other eye-to-eye to iron out the agenda. No wonder that the final platform turned out as a hodge-podge of mother statements that was haphazardly finished to meet the deadline of the Comelec for registration. All of these factions are crocodile nests.

• Civil society groups comprise yet another ring. The Black & White Movement, largely a social democratic-controlled coalition, seems to have the strongest “bulong power” which renders the other social democratic or ‘soc-dem’ factions ‘outside the kulambo’. The unconsolidated state of these diverse groups make it so tough for volunteers to join the Noynoy camp, as they are pressed to identify first of all which faction could be most friendly to them. The top crocodile here is led by a former GMA cabinet member whose coalition received funds from treasuries when her sibling was finance secretary.

• The Liberal Party comprises the final inner ring. Final, because this serves as Noynoy’s homebase group being a party-mate. Fr. Intengan’s ‘soc-dem’ cadres are well entrenched in the directorate and think-tank of the party (even as another Intengan ‘soc-dem’, Norbie Gonzales, is in the GMA camp). The same ‘soc-dems’ possess a lifeline in Europe—the Eurosocialists and Jesuits—who can use them for Europe’s own Bonapartist agenda. Meanwhile, other kibitzer liberals, who are simply eager to waft in the energy of the Noynoy upsurge to gain respective electoral mileage, are just that: kibitzers whose fragmentary opinions wouldn’t weigh as much as the Intengan Euro-bonding puppets and the stalwart oldies.

I was almost lured into the Noynoy trap right after the burial of the Tita Cory. But after receiving information about the inner rings and realizing the power of the Primal-Corruptitious among the crocodile leaders, I decided against this pro-Noynoy option.

Maybe Noynoy should present clear credentials of a true-and-honest saintliness that may make his words worth the salt of the earth. He is hardly any perfected human who merits my attention, which makes it all clear that the country needs a leader—a true leader who’s most experienced, prepared, and has made enormous sacrifices as prelude to his preparation for a feat with Destiny—other than Noynoy.

VILLAR: EMBODIMENT OF ‘PHILIPPINE DREAM’

March 21, 2010

Prof. Erle Frayne D. Argonza

[08 January 2010]

The social forecaster J. Naisbitt, among the sharpest observers of cultural innovations worldwide, declared in his book Megatrends Asia that the ‘Asian dream’ is the global dream of the moment.
Realizing this gigantic power shift, Naisbitt challenged the youth of the West to “go East!”

If we were to localize the global trend of ‘Asian Dream’, we can find this in the capsule term ‘Philippine Dream’. This is the dream of any struggling child to live a future of abundance, a dream that was once championed in America (‘American dream’) but which has been lost along the way, a dream that has found root finally in our own motherland.

My contention is that, if the Philippine state would refurbish its nauseating image as a ‘weak state’, it would find a fresh start in electing a president who is an embodiment of the ‘Philippine dream’. Luck of all luck, the Nacionalista Party’s own top leader, Manny Villar, fits squarely into this ‘Philippine Dream’ mold.

The Manny Villar narrative is practically saying to our compatriots that nobody has to leave the country for overseas job in order to live abundance in everyday life. Stake it out in the country, live to learn well, be daring to be innovative and pioneering, and one will rise like a phoenix from the ashes of poverty.

Do not wait for opportunities to drop from the sky like ripe guavas descending on the mouth of a proverbial Juan Tamad. Build the opportunities, and be daring to re-engineer yourself in the process to keep on bringing you up to the next level of success.

Such is the sterling truth exemplified by the Villar narrative, which is indeed splendidly impressive and worth a plethora of accolades. Only Villar fits this mold among the couples of presidential candidates, most of whom are the typical coño kids who treat the poor folks as utilitarian objects for vote-gathering purposes. Not only did Villar soil his hands in creating opportunities for housing and urban development, he was also among those noblesse legislators who built enabling measures to widen the latitudes of social equity and economic prosperity. And yet no coño kid is he amid his abundant life!

I remember the coño kids on campus as highly scorned spoiled brats who are in the university largely to display wealth and who condescendingly regard their schoolmates as lizards and rats. A few of them did I make friends with, those who can be remolded to a life of social relevance, even as I was among those self-supporting students (I was a full scholar) and grew as a militant activist. Well immersed among fellow intellectuals, I only had but expletives reserved for the coños.

Today I am among those who ask: what right has a coño to be president of the republic? A person who grew up in a mansion and couldn’t soil his hands in work deserves to be a leader of colonial era government, and such an era is long gone!

I would ask the same for a vice-president: what right has a coño to be vice-president of the country? Isn’t Loren Legarda, who now teams up with Manny Villar, the most fit for the job since she embodies the ‘Philippine dream’ and all the sterling qualities of a talented and competent Pinoy who has risen from the hovels and lead a prosperous life?

An emerging market such as the Philippines has most to gain from electing highly competent top officials who embody the ‘Philippine dream’ and/or ‘Asian dream’. Conversely, it would be disastrous to elect Inquisitionist coño kids who in fact are mere smokescreens for crocodiles.

I am a firm believer in the ‘Philippine dream’ or ‘Asian dream’, and I go for a Villar-Legarda team for 2010.

VILLAR VICTORY: KEY FORECASTS

March 21, 2010

VILLAR VICTORY: KEY FORECASTS

By: Prof. Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Development Center for Asia Africa Pacific
[11 December 2009]

BACKGROUND

This political economist and social forecaster foresees an eventual presidential victory for Manny Villar in the 2010 national polls. The forecast is based on the observations concerning the weaknesses of the other candidates. Most observable weaknesses of the Noynoy Team, as per information from within, buttress this forecast most of all. The popularity of Noynoy Aquino is merely transitory, even as voters will eventually choose Villar whose strengths are his very cutting edge for victory.

SITUATION ANALYSIS

Prior to the filing of COCs by the presidential candidates, the four (4) strongest contenders to the presidency were (in alphabetical order): Aquino, Escudero, Estrada, and Villar. To be considered a strong contender, a candidate must first exceed the minimum statistic of 8.5% (level of significance). A double-digit means the candidate’s public standing is very significant (notably 20% and above).

Public perceptions do change, and change so rapidly depending on prevailing circumstances. Before the filing of COCs yet, Sen. Escudero already pronounced his retreat from the presidential contest, thus rendering his supporters at a lost as to whom they should cast their lot on. Meanwhile, one can also see the decline of Aquino’s rating from a top of 60% to a recent 47%, evidence of short-term perceptual change.

The current situation points to the high level of indecision on the part of voters. Based on impressionistic information from the ground, voters who previously went for Aquino have already shifted to Villar. It is most likely that those who chose Escudero will go for Villar, assuming that the proper social marketing strategies and public projection are in place and operational on sustained basis.

It will take till the end of April yet for 90% of voters to firm up their choices, and another month later for the rest of the 10% of undecided to firm up theirs. By projecting the weaknesses of the Noynoy Team onwards throughout the campaign, it is possible that the tide will turn back for Villar even before the end of April, thus ensuring Villar’s victory.

DEBACLE IN THE AQUINO TEAM

A fractious team comprising of fragments of hardly unconsolidated factions is what characterizes the 1st layer of persons and groups surrounding Noynoy. Practically caught flat-footed by the upsurge of popular clamor for his presidency, Noynoy was so unprepared for the challenge, and ditto was his party. As of late November, Noynoy’s platform couldn’t be ironed out yet, precisely because the factions of experts and partisans who were tasked to produce each aspect of the agenda couldn’t see each other eye to eye.

Fractious and fragmentary indeed are these groups, that Noynoy is hardly in a position to get them to act together. A man unprepared for the presidential mission is likewise bereft of that credibility to call the shots within his backyard during a presidential derby. Unable to call the shots well, Noynoy is likened to Erap Estrada who was also regarded as a mere pawn by entrenched interest groups.

Finally, Noynoy’s platform was released in early December. But so glaring is the hodge-podge nature of the platform. The statements are mere motherhood statements comprising of lines that were already said time and again, providing no innovative thought about the huge challenges of solving poverty, attaining full employment, achieving fiscal balance, and getting the country closer to a 1st world economy by mid-2016 (or attain ‘development maturity’).

Till these days, volunteers are having a tough time getting through the Noynoy campaign lines. To be able to get inside, a volunteer has to study first the diverse groups comprising the pro-Noynoy forces, identify which group could be most friendly to the volunteer, and then finally decide to join. This tedious and circuitous process will drag down the Noynoy campaign altogether, and will prove disastrous during the middle of the campaign period. Lacking a solid machinery, the campaign will flounder, causing much chagrin on insiders. A chaotic campaign it will be, which will prove catastrophic in terms of securing voters’ fidelity and finality of choice.

Furthermore, the platform of Noynoy is so focused on domestic policy, with nary a statement about foreign policy. This expert is of the opinion that the ASEAN integration, which will happen during the next presidency’s incumbency, is a gigantic event for the nation and its neighbors, so that we can ill afford to be lackadaisical about it as a central feature of our foreign policy. The ASEAN integration is one that should be led by the Philippines no less, being the most credible country member due to its esteem as the 1st independent nation-state in Asia, and should, to repeat, be the central feature of the next presidency’s foreign policy agenda.

Aside from the above, there is the lack of experience of Noynoy in diverse facets of governance and relatively weak leadership in the public policy field. His charisma is largely an attribution of transference of his deceased parents’ charisma, which could hardly suffice to rally constituencies and his own supporters to support radical measures in the future.

STREAMING VILLAR’S VICTORY

Noticing such weaknesses quickly, and projecting them in the sharpest possible manner, will enable the Villar Team to recoup the temporarily lost grounds in public perception. Villar is clearly on top of his machinery, is most prepared in terms of a coherent platform, is most experienced both governance and policy-wise, possesses a charisma that flows from within rather than ‘inherited’ from departed parents, is the greater visionary and patriot than any of the other candidates. These strengths of Villar should be projected in crescendo fashion across the campaign period, thus ensuring victory at the end.

The mix of tactics and methods must be configured soon enough, with Villar himself at the helm of all the planning, generation of cognitive maps, and determination of the compass of the campaigns. It should be stressed that the campaign lines and substance must be high-level at all times, and only minimally ‘below the belt’. Villar, Legarda and the senatorial candidates should focus on high-level, principled campaign, leaving the ‘below-the-belt punches’ to other supporting personalities and groups within the Villar machinery.

Across the campaign period, diligence must be done in sustaining the building of the machinery (both the party and the multisectoral coalition) and the propaganda efforts. The Team should veer away from the clash between the Erap Team and the Gilberto/Lakas Team, which should go ahead and be allowed to devastate each other till they self-destruct. Along the way, the endorsement by cultural-political blocs with large command votes should be sought, notably the mainstream Left and INK. The endorsement by Sen. Escudero will count a lot for sure, which will provide light to his supporters about whom they should vote for.

Lastly, it should also be noted that the old conflicts among the Cojuancos are re-surfacing, the new morph being the Noynoy-Gibo divide. Noynoy will most likely be slam-banged by the Teodoro camp relentless, even as it has to parry the hard blows from the Erap camp. The Villar Team should maneuver to stay clear of these hardball confrontations, and focus on projecting positive, principled campaign lines and substantive debate lines along the way.

To conclude, realistically the contenders for the presidency will tail behind in the exit polls as their machineries and campaigns efforts puff up, flounder and lose steam. This will pave the way for heightened trust and confidence of voters on the Villar leadership whose presidency they will galvanize in the poll precints later.

‘LATE’ CAPITALISM ENDS IN CRASHING BLOW POST-‘MAD ECONOMICS’

September 12, 2008

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 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.]  

ADAM SMITH’S CLASSICAL THEORY IS COPYCAT/UN-ORIGINAL

September 10, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang umaga! Good morning from Manila!

As one can see in the title, Adam Smith’s ideas about political economy were unoriginal or copycat. So I’m going to articulate some notes about the matter. This may come as a shocker to the devotees of Smith and fanatical ideologues of liberal or free market capitalism, but it had to be accepted. This is a matter of fact, not of speculation or libel.

This note is not intended to demean Smith nor to denigrate those whose actions are copycat, far from it. Doing copycat items is among the pathways to success, this lesson is greatly stressed most specially among marketing professionals. If one cannot succeed through innovative or original ideas and practices, then take the ‘copycat way’. Network marketing had already perfected the ‘copycat way’ in fact, by way of optimizing the principle of duplication  (duplicate those presentation lines and themes before your niche customers or clients).

There are people who have this wrong notion that Smith invented liberal capitalism, and this has to be corrected. A simple knowledge of economic history will do. Having taught economic history at the Philippine’s premier university (U. Philippines) for some time, I know as a matter of fact that couples of influential writers emerged in the theoretic domain—who were focused on economic questions—before Smith appeared in the social landscape. Smith appeared when physiocracy, to which Smith properly belongs, was already making waves in France through the works of such gentlemen as Quesnay and Mirabeau.

But as one can see, Smith was a Scot, of the British Isle, and right in his own backyard there were couples of gentlemen too who wrote voluminously on the subject of political economy, from a vantage point that was already departing from the mercantilism of the previous couple of centuries. The departure concerned the sources of wealth, where the same thinkers opined that the ‘sphere of production’ had to be emphasized more than the ‘sphere of exchange’ which the mercantilists, notably Thomas Mun, discoursed on.

Some representative thinkers who preceded Smith were the following:

·        Sir William Petty (1623-87): Considered the founder of political economy. A charter member of the Royal Society.

 

·        John Locke, Sir Dudley North, David Hume, David Hume: Further propounded on basic principles of political economy. E.g. rent, trade, role of government.

 

·        Richard Cantillon: His book Essai sur la nature du commerce en general (1755) was “the most systematic statement of economic principles” (E. Roll, A History of Economic Thought).

 

·        Sir James Steuart: Wrote the voluminous Principles of Political Economy (1767), which was among the first textbooks in economics of that time.

 

·        Honore Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau: Enlightenment thinker, involved with the French revolution, a political moderate who opined that modernizing France better follow the US model of industrialization path. He influenced many younger physiocrates.

 

·        Francois Quesnay: Formally a fellow of the ‘economistes’ or ‘physiocrates’, was known for his popularization of the ‘tableau economique’ (economic table, title of his book), bringing political economy closer to empirical science.

 

·        Jean C.M.V. de Gournay: Another eminent fellow of the ‘physiocrates’, who collaborated with Quesnay in advancing principles of political economy.

 

·        Nicolas Baudeau : Wrote Introduction a la philosophie économique (1771).

 

·        G. F. Le Trosne: wrote De l’ordre social (1777).

 

·        André Morellet:  “ best known by his controversy with Galiani on the freedom of the grain trade during the Flour War” (quoted from Wikipedia).

 

·        Mercier Larivière and Dupont de Nemours: Also eminent members of the ‘physiocrates’.

Smith actually lived in Paris during his youthful heydays, where he stayed with the equally youthful Duke of Buccleuch circa 1764-1766. The Parisian exposure was Smith’s way of baptism into the illustrious physiocrats’ thought streams, and the rest was history.

So to my fellows in the professional world and this planet who continue to churn thoughts that Smith was the ‘originator of capitalism’, please rethink your opinions. Historical facts do not the least substantiate your thesis. Rather, what is right is that Smith brought political economy even closer to empirical science than ever, and his Wealth of Nations was a monumental effort during his time to construct a text book on the subject that was considerably a scientific material more than philosophy (ethics, metaphysics) though Smith still wrote philosophical treatises within the ambit of the methods of philosophy.

I need not belabor the point that Smith didn’t invent empiricism. Just by reflecting on the names above, one can see the names of giant figures in British empiricism (e.g Hume, Locke), who themselves took off from intellectual giants that preceded them (e.g. Francis Bacon).

So, please disabuse yourselves of Smith as ‘originator’ of anything. He never even boasted of originating anything at all. Rather, he systematized thought constructs that were already prevalent during his heyday. The purposes of his economic doctrines were already explained in some other articles writ by me.

[22 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]  

SMITH-RICARDIAN ‘FREE TRADE’ JUSTIFIED SLAVE TRADE

September 9, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

To continue on the theme of laissez faire, a doctrine started by the French physiocrats and systematized further by the Scots, let it be known that the principle of ‘free trade’ generated by physiocracy was largely a doctrinal defense of slave trade. [Physiocrats were philosophers who focused on economic problems, while philosophes who focused on political, ethical, and epistemological problems.]  

I already elaborated in a previous briefer that Adam Smith was an ‘intellectual prostitute’ whose services were procured by the British East India Company, precisely for the purpose of crafting in theoretical form the ‘free trade’ doctrine that was to justify, though subtly, the slave trade of that historic juncture. I gained the information about this rather shady background of Smith from a fellow political economist, Butch Valdez, a Fellow in the defunct Independent Review circle of 1990s Manila.

The physiocrats were already quite sophisticated in their modeling of economic reality then existing, and from out of that physiocratic subculture emerged Adam Smith whose synthesis of the existing doctrines of his time produced the Wealth of Nations. In the same book and related philosophical writings, Smith discoursed both on micro and macroeconomics, explaining in physiocratic terms the source of national income (termed ‘wealth’ at that time) from out of domestic engagements by landlords, capitalists and laborers, as well as international operations notably those accruing from overseas colonies’ operations.

It was from the latter that David Ricardo, disciple of Smith, took off to articulate the principle of ‘comparative advantage’. In the writings of Ricardo, the discipline of political economy moved much closer to empirical science, a feat that I myself had come to admire. David Ricardo was hardly any ‘intellectual prostitute’ to reckon with, but rather was he a financier who engaged in the evolving bourse and speculative pursuits of his own time. But slave trade was very much alive during his time, and there could be no doubt on his part that his theory of international trade served in no small measure to justify the conduct of slave trade.

In my youth yet did I come to learn, from the likes of Alejandro ‘Ding’ Lichauco, a Harvard-schooled economist and corporate executive, that free trade couldn’t be enforced without imperialism. It was a perfect income-generating strategy for Britain particularly since this world power had an entire empire to manage. Absent that Empire, and free trade will collapse. (Ding Lichauco was later a leading Fellow of the Independent Review in the 1990s.)

However, it was only much later that I was able to connect free trade directly to slave trade practices, thanks to my Fellows in the Independent Review, notably Butch Valdez. Slave traders were legion around the years 1700-1850, or up to the decade preceding the US Civil War and China’s Taiping Rebellion, and at one time British traders alone owned over 20,000 ships plying the oceans to market African slaves. Within America, Portugal and Spain both engaged in the same trade, though including Indians aside from Blacks, often with the blessings of the Vatican. It was huge bucks, this slave trade, more so that the bourses began to factor slave availability and chattel quality in the valuation of certain cash crops, which then factored in the valuation of main stock trading articles and nascent insurance forms.

The very same slave traders had in their employ not only those early stock traders in London and elsewhere, but also lobby groups and journalists whose tasks included bribing legislators and bureaucrats to keep them blind about the noxious trading of human chattel. There was no way that slave trade could survive in a policy environment of high regulation, more so in a context of ‘activist state’ intervening so heavily in investment areas (dirigist development).

It was only in a state with least regulations did slave trade flourish, the only regulations it seems coming from God Almighty (who would punish the traders for their sins post mortem). But even God Almighty had a long-drawn policy of non-interventionism in the physical plane, a laissez faire attitude that favored the physiocrats and their notorious slave trader sponsors. As far as Earth was concerned, it was the oligarchs who are gods till now, and so they define which doctrine to advance at every turn of epochs, historic periods and cyclical episodes.

Since the slave traders then had to reckon with powerful mercantilist doctrinaires such as Colbert, whose writings influenced France’s intellectual and governance circles and US’ policy makers notably A. Hamilton, there was no way that slave trade would fail to catch the eyes of politicians and libertarian groups, and before long the same trading ‘best practices’ would be criminalized as malpractices. The same mercantilist policy makers, who were dirigists and regulationists, swarmed the Kings’ courts everywhere, who didn’t mince words in attacking slave trade and slandering the traders before the nobles and mediocre bureaucrats (who always needed some godfather thinkers as mentor-guides for their actions).  

That was why physiocracy failed to gain foothold in its own home ground of France, and had to be exported to the neighboring British Isle where it obtained further fertilization. Finally, upon the further expansion of the British Empire, physiocracy caught the eyes of the nobles, politicians and bureaucrats. At that moment of convergence of interests for laissez faire, Smith was already ripe for the picking, via the British East India Company, whose satisfactory work was vigorously propagandized by the coteries of doctrinal converts.

Smith gained not only fame but also great following, and among his followers emerged David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus. The works of Smith and his contemporaries, five to seven decades later, inspired another coterie of philosophers, the Classical Evolutionists (Darwin, Spencer, Morgan, Tylor, Frazer, etc), whose theories of ‘natural selection’ (Darwin’s) and/or ‘survival of the fittest’ (Spencer’s) were defended via the physiocratic principles of scarcity and competition.

With a fairly equal number of free market-free trade theorists at hand, promoted in public and private circles by an emerging financier class that was awash with money and enjoyed wide social networks among the elites, free trade came to challenge and demolish mercantilist doctrines in shock waves of mighty discourses. Needless to say, for a certain period, the slave traders celebrated to the highest heavens their shallow victory for seeing their candidate doctrine ascend the intellectual pinnacle, their intoxication behooving them into believing perhaps that they were Gods of Olympus, a deluded image inherited by their financier pedigrees of today.  

That was then. Till slavery in its old form eroded. Free trade declined at the inception of the 20th century, but was later revived by the Chicago school and its adherents. Are we then ready to slide back into another round of slavery? What would be the forms of slavery this time, if the old form refuses justification and public acceptance? Isn’t the trading of human labor overseas a mere disguise for slave labor? Isn’t the privatization of jails—currently being experimented in the USA—an undisguised slavery as the prisoners will be considered chattel of Big Business, the same corporate groups that fund the purses of ‘corporate social responsibility’?

I’d end this piece right here. A pleasant day to everyone.

[21 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]

ADAM SMITH: ‘INTELLECTUAL PROSTITUTE’ FOR BRITISH EAST INDIA & SLAVE TRADERS

September 8, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Amigos y Amigas, Buenos dias! Magandang umaga! Good morning!

The title of this briefer may come as a shock to all those who pretend to know Adam Smith and, more so, for those who revere Mr. Smith as a cult Icon. Just to clarify to everyone, being a political economist and ‘economic sociologist’, I hold Smith personally in high esteem as an intellectual, and this briefer is not meant to flaunt irreverence on this gentleman. Smith’s place in economic history is already granite rock, no matter if laissez faire or physiocracy has become obsolete before World War II yet.

The thing is, fact of all facts, contemporary thinkers such as those guys from the ‘Chicago school’, led by Nobel notable J. Friedman (weren’t there Nobel winners who were demented, nay demonic in mindset? E.g biologist Watson, who claimed that Blacks are genetically inferior in mental intelligence). The revival of laissez faire, as one can see, was responsible for flawed policy regimes that led to the series of short cycle crisis since the early 70s yet, and which is now leading finally to the Great Depression that will mark the death blow to liberal capitalism that is now on its terminal phase. From this point of time onwards, there can be no more return to laissez faire without bringing back humanity to a catastrophic Dark Age reminiscent of that demonic age of the Medieval Era when sanity fled humanity for nigh 200 year at least.

I used to be a Fellow of the Independent Review circle here in Manila, a circle of eminent and illustrious intellectuals and business leaders (I was the only humble fellow here in the 1990s).  Unfortunately, this group disbanded in 2002, due perhaps to methodological differences (I was active only till 2001 when I left for the USA for about a year). Entry to this group was by invitation, and that was how I got wind up of it: a female student of mine at the De La Salle University (DLSU Manila) had some of my articles (readings in class) read by his father, the Undersecretary Butch Valdez (Dept of Education) who in turn extended the invitation to the Independent Review circle thru her daughter.

Within the circle, it was Butch Valdez, the eminent Principal of the Valdez & Co that is one of the Philippines’ top auditing firms, who studied with intensity the physiocratic paradigm. He came across various readings about the life and works of Adam Smith, and wrote series of articles in the Independent Review (a journal-type magazine) in ‘97 and ‘98. Being among DLSU’s privileged coterie of most brilliant alumni, Valdez’s most revealing inquiry—Smith’s being a paid intellectual for the slave traders—did come as a shock to me, though it doesn’t shock me anymore that intellectuals do prostitute themselves before high paying clients (Antonio Gramsi and Edward Said devoted kilometric pages about intellectuals, both the ‘organic’ and the ‘autonomous’ types).

The research findings of Mr. Valdez concerning Mr. Smith can be summed up as follows:

·         Previous to the years before the ascent to eminence of Smith, slave trade and the British East India Co or BEIC were among the accepted economic modalities. Needless to say, the BEIC was engaged in the trading of slaves. [Actually, my research went beyond that, as the same BEIC was also engaged in the DRUG TRADE, in the opium trade, and had an army of its own separate yet from the King’s army.]

 

·         Physiocracy, which bannered ‘free enterprise’, was especially important for the BEIC and related monopolistic imperial groups since the paradigm promoted ‘free trade’ as well. Laissez faire was in a clash with mercantilism’s dirigist policy regime, remember, as it was also opposed to mercantilism’s promotion of industrialism even as laissez faire championed agriculturalism and the ulterior interests of the landlord class. Needless to say, physiocracy championed the cause of the gentry or big planter landlord and was scornful of the industrial class (in the Philippines there is nary a disjunction between ‘landlord’ and ‘industrial’ interests anyway, they are in conjunct.)

 

·         At that historic juncture when the British Empire was expanding and eclipsing its power, the BEIC desired to optimize its profits from out of diverse trading engagements, most of all for optimizing the slave trade. It need not belabored that slaves were tied up to colonial plantations, and plantation economy was the only modality permitted by the British Monarchy as the definitive economic formation for the ‘4th world’ peripheries (colonies). The BEIC engagements’ optimization can best be done by procuring the services of intellectual mercenaries who could articulate in sophistical vogue the very doctrinal expectations of the Lords of the BEIC Hierarchy  (a ‘Committee of 300’, per my research findings).

 

·         It was precisely at that juncture of expanded slave trade when the BEIC’s talent scouts eyed the services of a Scottish gentleman, named Adam Smith, who could fit into the mental Pied Piper prototype for BEIC enslavement pursuits.  It would be no wise to contend that Smith was a mental robot or ‘Manchurian Candidate’ controlled by overlords behind the scenes, for Smith was a man of his own mind, and up to the last instance he was indeed that ‘organic intellectual’ for the slave traders. He just couldn’t qualify as ‘independent intellectual’ though, for Smith was, in the yardsticks of the autonomous intellectuals, a ‘prostituted intellectual’ or ‘intellectual prostitute’.

The rest was history. Both the erudite and simpleton among the schooled populations of Earth know what Smith’s economic doctrine is all about. And many folks today are aware that the neo-liberal policy regime of the moment was a rehash of the same Smithian physiocracy.

I do wish that I could converse with Antonio Gramsci face-to-face today and request this noblesse thinker whether the term ‘intellectual prostitute’ is appropriate an inference for Adam Smith. I might have erred in judgement. Mr. Smith was a willing party to the enslavement, plunder and looting by the British oligarchs, and this ‘willing party to’ aspect may cancel out my inference altogether. Sous rapture, to quote Jacques Derrida.

At any rate, I have shared my notes, and thanks to the gentleman Butch Valdez for his inquiries shared to our circle. Thanks to Gramsci and Said too for their recondite peregrinations about intellectuals. Fellows, I hereby leave the inferential option to you, to decide whether Smith was indeed ‘intellectual prostitute’. Have a nice day!

[Writ 21 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]

FOOD WARS ARE COMING, PREPARE!

May 4, 2008

Bro. Erle Frayne D. Argonza

[Writ 04 May 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

Food wars are coming, prepare for the contingencies! This is now a visible possibility, so all those enthused development stakeholders and peace-builders better insert an extra agendum on their ‘key result areas’.

Given the so many sources of conflict that are natural resources related, the latest ones being the ‘water wars’, it is no longer a remote possibility that food wars will erupt in some ‘hot soup spots’ in the world. Such hot spots are not those ones the world knows today (e.g. Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Korean Peninsula, Taiwan-China strait) that can be potential starting points for great wars. But somehow, the areas and the food wars coming can ‘cross-cut’ the issues involving conflicts in the hot spots we know.

The scenario would be as follows:

·         A convergence of volatilities in the global market would, at one conjuncture, lead to simultaneous price increases in food, oil/energy, metals, utilities. Hoarding then takes place at alarmingly uncontrollable levels. Shockingly, the old ‘policy tools’ to control prices and hoarding won’t work.

 

·         Massive urban riots and upheavals in the affected rural areas take place. New militia groups will rise almost overnight, challenging both national armies and established warlord and rebel groups where these are found.

 

·         Noticing that their own food, energy, base metal stocks are near or pass the critical points, affected states will then turn blind eye to the militias. Tying up with underworld for arms and information, the militias would then conduct quick eco-scan of neighboring countries that are relatively porous for food ransack operations. Key areas would be mapped out as professionally as possible.

 

·         Noticing their own relative porosity, the panic response of affected food supplier states would be to plug their borders as quickly as they can before hothead militias come. They may do panic last-level talks with the state leaders of neighboring countries, who in turn will simply claim that they do not control warlord/militia groups at all. They may send token protection groups at the border.

 

·         Anticipating such moves, the militias, forming cross-country alliances, will mount a coordinated surprise attack. Invasive entries will be done from around 5-6 country origins, using both dawn and dusk attacks. Simultaneous attacks via air, sea, land, rivers & lakes will be mounted on all fronts.

 

·         Effectively unable to prevent the coordinated invasion, the national army/police of the affected state will watch in horror as the rapid moving invaders coalesce with internal players (‘dog of wars’ supplied by local mafia or related groups) to open and ransack warehouses.

 

·         The invaders will then retreat back to their base origins as quick as they’ve entered the porous state. Hot pursuit is simply nil, save for a few sporadic gunfights with retreating forces.

 

·         The affected state will then demand for indemnification or equivalent payment from the militias’ respective states, none of which may come at all. Given the already burgeoning subsidies by states to shore up domestic supplies and prevent further civil unrest due to the crisis, the states will simply have no resource for indemnification. To print more money for indemnification would be to risk hyper-inflation on top of an already inflationary environment.

 

·         With hardly any sincere face-saving moves by the militias’ states, the affected state may then be provoked into a ‘call to arms’ and do some punitive attacks on some quick neighbors. It can also unleash the firepower of rebel groups from the ransacking countries that are based in its territory, arm these groups and make them lead punitive attacks.

 

·         Unless cooler heads prevail in the region, a regional conflagration could ensue, hence widening the latitudes of the conflict. The original ‘hot soup’ for the stomach then turns to a ‘hot caldron’ of total war. Multilateral efforts may fail for a time, as the conflicts happen in at least three (3) world regions.

 

Partners in development and peace, this scenario can no longer be ignored today. Let us all prepare for the eventuality. If it can be stopped by cutting off the bud before it blooms, whatever that may take, then let’s better do it as soon as we can. Time is now against us, I believe, as events are moving so fast they happen as soon as we forecast them, like the formation of the food cartels.

If there would still be time to constitute strategic studies teams that can eco-scan the planet and identify possible ‘hot soup spots’, this would be a welcome move. Failing to recognize the evolving contingency, let’s not get shocked at all when the paramilitary ‘dogs of war’ will be at the gates of the bereaved states. They deserve some ‘hot soup’ after all, we may surmise.

WHAT RICE SHORTAGE? SACKLOADS CAN FILL MOUNTAINS!

May 3, 2008

Bro. Erle Frayne D. Argonza

[Writ 03 May 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

Good day, Fellows!

You see, if you’re going to beg (panic buy) from any rice trader in Cagayan Valley (northern Philippines) for some rice, accompanied by your melancholic look like as if all rice will disappear from Earth very soon, the stunned trader would most likely say, “you’re asking only for a few rice? By golly we got mountain loads of them here!” “What? You say there’s a shortage of rice? Tell that to the Marines! What a Big Lie, this shortage!”

 

Development partners, peace builders, this is the latest news update I got on the ground. A structural  engineer up north, who contracts projects for the Department of Agriculture, laughed with guffaws about the ‘shortage lie’ as he narrated to me his fresh reportage passed on to him by traders. There’s plenty of rice to last for months, for Christ’s sake!

 

Look at what the organized chaos had done so far here in Manila and other regions. It had made the poorer more pathetic as they have to line up for supposedly cheap rice, made to believe as they are by public relations Pied Pipers that rice is going to run out soon. We’re almost near to stampedes here already, thanks heavens there’s still some dignity left among our poor folks they won’t stampede for rice alone. They would do that for a Wowowie TV program that promises to turn them into millionaires overnight, but to stampede for 5 kilograms of rice? Hello! Our folks are too civilized to buy that bullet.

 

To continue, listen to what some traders said: “Kabayan, how tragic this shortage lie had done not only to our poor but to us traders. We got so huge stocks in the warehouses, but now we cannot just bring them to Manila for unloading, afraid that no retailer might buy them because suddenly their wholesale prices are sky high. So now even our pockets have to wait for the more stable days. Sad!”

 

That’s the real picture at ground-level, Partners in development & peace. THERE IS NO RICE SHORTAGE. The shortage was stage-managed. Whether the theatrics was designed overseas and spilled over here, or that it’s only a domestic script is something worth investigating. Our intelligence community should get busy getting to this business of pinning down who staged managed what.

 

Meantime, the Thailand & Company (states) that cartelized rice recently has done an act that now seems reactive. It is pure and plain panic, disguised as anything worth the ‘rationalization’ of the rice sector. True, for a time this measure can stabilize rice price and bring it down a bit. But now, this company has to prove itself worthy to the global community that its cartelization effort—state-sponsored, using the nation-state as mediating instrument—will make rice available to rice-consumers at relatively reasonable (note: cheap is out of the question) and sustained supply.

 

If the Thailand & Co will fail to meet global expectations, its member-states will be stoned with fiery embers of public wrath. And that is because, by placing themselves in the line of fire between the global consumers (who were the ‘victims’ in the shortage game script) and the global financiers-speculators (the real culprits in the criminal rise of price rice and stage-managed shortage), the national cartels will be the vent object for public ire. And there it goes, the real culprits go unnoticed and unpunished.

 

The real story of the price fluctuations in grains and foods in general is that many hedge funds and related financiers decided to park their money a bit in food for their commodity futures operations, eventually driving prices higher up. The reason being that it’s safer to park and earn money in food, period. Look at how the hedge funds were burnt out by their over-exposures to the subprime housing in the USA, that’s enough a precedent for the same financiers to go to safer investment havens. Or else the various global stakeholders will focus their eyes on these gung-ho derivatives investors and ‘burn them at stake’ (criminalize in world courts, regulated via new global treaties and instruments).

 

And that’s where price stabilization would start later: regulate speculative finance, take down the ‘virtual economy’ based on predatory speculation, dismantle global monopolies, return to fixed currencies backed up by the gold standard, tax cross-border financial transactions, and so on. Quite a wish list for now, true. Crisis after crisis will bring us to their galvanization…and, returning to the ‘real economy’, there’ll be enough grains, cereals, staples for all the earth’s peoples.

FOOD CRISIS AND ORGANIZED PANIC BY FOOD CARTELS & OLIGARCHY

May 1, 2008

Bro. Erle Frayne Argonza

[Writ 28 April 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

We’re having a production-related problem with rice today in the Philippines today, which looks more like an echo problem of a larger global phenomenon of food crisis. Riots have already been experienced in at least 33 countries, and we may expect the frequency to rise in the months ahead.

To single out production factors, and especially to pinpoint flawed land-use patterns as the cause of the crisis, tends to blur the real cause behind much of our peace and development problems in the world today. This crisis is one of the anarchic results of orchestrations done by financial speculators over a stretch of three (3) decades, followed through recently by food cartels’ machinations to heighten up their looting of the public’s resources via the food market.

Let us recall that as early as the 1980s, the move towards liberalizing the food markets and integrate this sector into the evolving ‘virtual economy’—by unleashing speculative practices on agricultural products via instrument of ‘commodities markets’—already crept into our national boundaries. Gradually did the pattern get integrated into a global mesh of transactions involving not only food but a long list of articles of trade and services being transacted via the secondary markets or hedge funds.

The objective, as far as this observer now sees it, is to emerge a few gigantic cartels globally that some day dominate a global oligopoly. Probably as little as five (5) such colossal mega-corporations will be well prepositioned to control global food, thus enabling their control not only of the gene stocks (intellectual properties) but of prices most of all.

This scenario is now happening in steel. As soon as we hit the 900+ tones per annum or TPA production of global steel in the 1990s, plans were already afoot to eventually cartelize steel via mergers of giant steel firms, with the participation of fund managers in the process and ownership structures. The merger of Mittal and Alcelor, which resulted to the gigantic firm that now produces over 100 tpa, had now clearly substantiated this long forecast move to cartelize steel. In the near future, just about 3-5 such giants, each one producing 150+ tpa, will be left to control the global market of steel.

Didn’t you notice the sudden fluctuations in the prices of metals globally beginning in the middle of this decade yet? Often than not, based on our experience of the depression-era Weimar Republic, this phenomenon of hyper-inflationary swings in base and precious metal prices are preceding events prior to a global depression. This time around, the panic created by the corresponding process would be the sweetening of the steel merger option (with fund manager participation or rather manipulation) and, voila! Steel cartels are up! Hail the Cartels to the highest heavens!

The pattern is getting to be noxiously obvious that even a mere high school student of economics and history could easily see them. This same pattern is now creeping thru the food sector, even as it has also been taking down aluminum, nickel, copper, gold, banking, retail, realty, and lots of more sectors, with steel being the prototype experiment.

For the sharp observers out there, do make your tallies now as to which of the present food giants would emerge the victors. I will not be surprised if one day, my country’s own biggest F&B group, the San Miguel Corporation, will be gobbled up, via a merger with a larger corporate fish, and melt out into existence except in mere concept and memory of a once mighty firm.

Start making your tallies now. Meantime, let’s also start tallying the riots and casualties due to famine and food-related problems, and see where the casualty level will reach before the 3-5 cartels will become sacrosanct global food market controllers. It surely takes so much blood spillage to advance the interests of the Global Oligarchy, this is what we can get from the picture.   

A NEW GLOBAL FINANCIAL ARCHITECTURE IS MOST EXIGENT

April 28, 2008

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Writ 23 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

From the early 1970s through the 1990s, the massive liberalization of the international financial system was executed with such dynamism, radically altering thus the international financial landscape. Look at the result of this gargantuan liberalization today: global economic catastrophe.

 

New Nationalism, in collaboration with old nationalists, socialists, and ideologies that articulate the interests of marginal sectors, argues for the immediate reform of the international financial system. It had to be admitted by everyone else that the system failed, it simply cannot be sustained under a regime of liberal capital, monetary and related financial policy regimes.

 

Both the USA and EU economies today are particularly affected by the failure of financial liberalization. The ‘virtual economy’ had taken over their respective domains, they were so badly de-industrialized notably the USA’s that there may no more be a semblance of once flourishing industrial economies there, their infrastructures are rotting and collapsing, and now the final death blow to their economic wellness had come as recession ravages like uncontrolled forest fire there.

 

On the international level, the problem can be addressed by convening at once the legitimate delegates of states, with market and civil society groups serving as observers. The task is to immediately reform the rotten international financial system, and concur a new global financial architecture. A ‘New Breton Woods’ would be apt as a label for this effort (to borrow from the economist Lyndon LaRouche).

 

The most urgent agenda is the re-examination of national currencies, return of the gold reserve standard or equivalent, institution of better regulatory mechanisms both of cross-border and  national levels, immediate economic recovery by provision of long-term low-interest rated financial instruments or ‘white knight’ finance, and clipping the predatory powers of greedy financiers such as hedge funds and ‘vulture funds’ operators.

 

A special topic would be the stock markets of each nation or region. It is now time to reform the stock markets, which have been used by greedy elements to loot national coffers and the public of direly needed financial resources. If the stock markets can’t be reformed, then the option for them is to face increasing ‘guerilla finance’ by groups that will seek to establish direct links between the market players who seek new capital funds and the potential investors from among the general public. In which case, if the latter succeeds, the stock market is out to die a painful dinosaur’s death, ditto for all those predatory stock traders whose role will become extinct overnight.   

 

The fundamental contention for the reform package, culled from the New Nationalism article, is reflected below.

 

Reform the international financial system.

 

The global financial system is indubitably a homestead of predatory financiers. Usury and global speculation, the masterpieces of financiers, are the enemies of nations. Usury in international finance is at an all-time high, raising questions about the legality and moral propriety of   current lending practices. Incidentally, the said financiers are the ones who exercise the clout within the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, whose chiefs have always been CEOs from the bank headquarters of the financiers. The said banks have always acted out as the marketing agents of financial cartels, even as many nations that have followed the austere ‘structural adjustments’ imposed by them have been reduced to paupers.

 

It is high time for ‘white knights’ to appear in global finance, lending money accordingly for developmental and investment purposes at very low interest rates (lower than 1.5% annually) and at very long-term payments (25-50 years). Such institutions are now beginning to appear, but creditors remain cautious about their moves. Such institutions are autonomous from the power orbits of the Western financial cartels, are well niched in Asia (e.g. China), and appear to be creditor-friendly.

 

The reform though should go beyond the ‘white knight’ route. We must actively participate in Asia’s establishment of its own monetary fund and a single-currency regime, and take a leading role if opportunities allow. It may prove beneficial yet to re-institute a regime of gold reserve standard, which should back up the Asian currency. This same monetary fund will then serve as the regional ‘white knight’ that will provide credit to nations in need in the region and continent. The actions will also accelerate the economic cum political integration of the ASEAN and the economic integration for the entire East Asia, steps that will further stabilize the national economies and continuously sustain their respective growth. Meanwhile, a regional currency can stabilize soon enough upon its launching, that it would be a difficult job for criminal financiers to manipulate it, such as the success of the ‘Euro’ now exhibits to the globe.

 

Still another key intervention measure is the control of predatory speculation through a ‘Tobin tax’ on cross-border currency and related purchases (J. Tobin’s proposal in the early 70s). A tax of 0.75% alone on the current cross-border exchanges, which amounts to $300 Trillions annually, would generate $2.25 Trillions. The said money will then be used to fund the operations of international organizations such as the United Nations, UNDP and authentic international NGOs for social development purposes. The money can also be used by ‘white knight’ financing institutions of international scale. This set of actions will then induce reforms in the other institutions, with chain reaction effects leading to declining speculation in the long run, as the oligarchic  bankers/financiers adjust their rates to more competitive rates in the face of challenges coming from global ‘white knights’.

NATIONAL BANKING & FINANCIAL-MONETARY REFORMS

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Writ 23 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

Who really is in control of a country’s central bank? Is the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas really in the hands of the people of the republic, under the guidance of the Constitution of the Republic? How come we cannot even see a shadow of any of the Letters of Intent of the International Monetary Fund that were supposedly deposited in the central bank here?

 

National banking has to be strengthened, the sovereignty of the Constitution over the banks have to be re-asserted here, and in other countries where this is applicable. I would quite say it strongly, that the Bank for International Settlements, the central banks that comprise it, and the IMF-World Bank group do not represent the interests of nations and marginal groups at all. They are appendages of the global financier oligarchy and remain to be weak vehicles under the direction of financier families and figures lurking in the shadows.

 

Look at how the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas had been systematically looted in the past, and who knows the trend continues till these days. For serving the interests of global oligarchs well, the core officials here conceal eventualities of looting under the cover of doctored accounting reports. We don’t even know any more the exact quantities and values of gold reserves here. There was massive looting of gold bars here, and who knows the trend continues.

 

There is no transparency concerning the monetary-financial-capital markets and institutions in the country and others. This had been clearly established by so many studies done in the past. Instituting transparency alone isn’t enough to strengthen these institutions.

 

The re-assertion of the central banks’ sovereignty must be done without reserve. In the Philippine case, it is the IMF that has been in control of our central bank and monetary authority. In the USA, the top financier families are the ones who really own and control the federal reserve there.

 

Where necessary, the need to institute financial-capital-monetary controls must be undertaken. Also, there must be a strong consideration for instituting an Asian Monetary Fund here, with an Asian currency backed up by gold reserves. The return to the gold standard, though in revised form, should be strongly studied and considered.

 

Without such reforms, the currency of a nation will always face the risk of being attacked by predatory underworld criminal groups tasked by their financier sponsors to destroy the same currency. Destroy a nation’s currency, and you will destroy the nation as well. Keynes and the Old Nationalists were clear about this, a contention that was amplified by the economic collapse of the Weimar republic, which saw monstrous hyper-inflation, and the scourge of depression that struck the economic giants UK, USA and Germany then.

 

This essential contention of nationalist economics must be re-echoed and re-studied. Its application though must be revised to suit the emerging context. For instance, the viability of instituting a regional currency, as exemplified by the Euro, has become a regular staple of monetary reform.

 

The excerpts from the New Nationalism article regarding the matter is reflected below.

 

Strengthen national banking and the monetary system.

 

Economic stability at all levels demands the strengthening of a national banking system, and concomitantly the strengthening of monetary system with sovereignty-backed parameters and rules. First and foremost of monetary missions is the re-assertion of the powers of the Constitution of the Republic over the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Needless to say, the country today faces a weak national bank, and necessarily a weak monetary system engendered by it. Sovereignty questions impede the effective operations of national banking in the country, as indicated by the excessive meddling of the International Monetary Fund, acting as agent of the global financial cartels, in the Bangko Sentral’s operations. The first step should be a thorough investigation by the Congress of the Republic to determine precisely who owns and controls the Bangko Sentral, and conduct related oversight functions to assess the entire consolidated assets of the said bank inclusive of unaccounted precious metals.

 

Should there be a need to institute maximum monetary controls, the national bank should be mandated by the Congress precisely to exercise such controls through a regime of currency controls, where found warranted. In no way should our national currency be subjected to attacks by predatory financier speculators, as what the latter have been doing from the mid-1997 onwards. Money is the lifeblood of the economy, and rendering our money under a regime of free exchange rates and free trade leaves us extremely vulnerable to the machinations of such greedy forces, further weakening our national economy. Monetary controls are the best antidotes to the ailment of a weak currency. Were it possible to revive a system of gold reserve standard, then let such a strategy be studied and enforced, to ensure stability in monetary concerns and the currency markets.

 

The interest rate controls should likewise continue, but the state must see to it that the rate regimes are within the bounds of sovereignty parameters, representing thereof the national interest and the subsidiary interests of the various social sectors. And, should conditions warrant, our national bank should be among the key initiators for constituting new supra-national institutions, such as an Asian Monetary Fund, thus signaling our participation in reforming the entire financial & monetary system (see below). Our involvement in an Asian Monetary Fund could be a fitful strategy to finally exit from the International Monetary Fund, further strengthening our national banking and monetary system.

 

SOCIAL CAPITAL FOR MARGINAL SECTORS IN RESOURCE EXTRACTION

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Writ 23 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

I have always supported a ‘social capital’ framework for advancing the interests of marginal sectors in resource extraction industries. Particularly affected are the indigenous peoples and the slash & burn planters. The New Nationalism article emphasizes this point clearly.

 

I also had advanced this contention in some other articles. In a speech before environmentalists held in late 2004, I advocated for co-stewardships of mining sites with the same marginal sectors. As an official in the presidential palace, I also wrote a policy paper that stipulated the possibility of such agreements which, to my own surprise, can be legally supported by the Mining Act. This Act, to note, met enormous flak from civil society groups here.

 

The laws of a particular country may already provide entitlements for marginal sectors in the said areas, and may only need to be highlighted via research. In the USA for instance, the native Americans were able to procure concessions to co-own and manage leisure and tourism businesses that are located in their sites, and so far the concerned beneficiaries were jettisoned from out of marginalization to middle class life by this co-stewardship arrangements.

 

I am thankful to all those thinkers who argued for mainstreaming the marginal sectors via ‘social capital’. The likes of Antonio Gramsci, Mahatma Gandhi, PR Sarkar, Paulo Freire, Robert Putnam, and Peter Evans come to mind. They practically echoed the same theme: the significance of trust as galvanizing force for building social networks that can serve as ‘social capital’ for development purposes.

 

All it needs to take is political will and some ingenious methods of accounting to be able to quantify the ‘social capital’ potencies of a group of people in an area. This can be coupled with a calculation of the ‘human capital’ potencies of those who can be involved as laborers and experts of site-related industries.

 

The basic contention culled from the New Nationalism article is reflected entirely below.

 

Concur co-stewardships with communities affected by extractive industries.

 

Our mining sector had been in the doldrums for quite some time now. The production levels of both (a) base metals and (b) precious metals have surely been at lackluster levels. Meantime, logging has been totally banned to arrest further deforestration and its accompanying desertification and soil erosion. It is only in the energy sector where extraction has been impressively high, and the sector is appreciably a very dynamic one even in terms of R&D considerations. We are now at the crossroads concerning such sectors as mining and forest resources, where a revivified extraction is in the pipelines but couldn’t move because of constitutional and/or statutory constraints.

 

Note that most of the country’s natural resources for extraction are habituated by (a) tribal peoples and (b) migratory slash & burn peasants. Such populations have long ‘guarded’ the resource-rich habitats. It would surely be a faulty policy to drive them away—hidden under the euphemism of ‘relocation’—in order to give way to a mining concessionaire. Likewise would it be unsound to merely integrate some of their members as wage laborers for the extraction operations. Such actions, derived from regarding the people as ‘high disutility’ entities, are plain reactionary, even as they push the populations to the limits, leading to the folks to constitute hostile millennial movements and rebel separatists. The moves are reactionary as they contribute to the weakening of the nation, to the fragmentation of the national community.

 

The most pro-active path to address the concerned issue is to design and concur stewardship arrangements with the said populations. Three things are addressed by the stewardship: (1) the people will stay in the area, with better housing and amenities, who in turn will monitor and safeguard the entire operational sites; (2) where necessary, the same folks will be employed in the operations and administrative jobs where applicable, on a first priority basis; and, (3) the people will be co-owners of the firm, with equity/stock participation derived through a calibration of their productivity potency, historical role in stewardship of the area, and other variables. It is argued that this stewardship path is the win/win formula for the state, investors (market), and the communities concerned (‘social capital’/civil society). Consequently, the contribution to the GDP through resource extraction jumps up to a historic high level.

OPEN UP MARKETS

April 28, 2008

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Writ 23 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

As one can observe from my previous articles, New Nationalism supports a continuous entry of investments to the domestic market from overseas. This article articulates the specific contention about the matter.

 

Autarchy is bad policy and practice to begin with. If it worked for the Habsburg Empire for a while, it worked only because there were draconian measures employed to make them work, and that the territory of the Empire was large enough for autarchy (also autarkie). This empire is long gone, autarchy is ridiculously obsolete, but Old Nationalists abound who still tend to be autarchic in their discourse. They are among our living dinosaurs, come to think of it.

 

Just because capital investments come from the outside shouldn’t make them necessarily suspect or deleterious to the national interest. As already previously articulated, there should be ‘safety nets’ or institutional and policy mechanisms, such as fair trade –based regimes, that can mitigate the deleterious impact of globalization.

 

But before articulating on the other base mechanisms for such mitigation, it should be first accepted that overseas capital can serve the national interest. If domestic investment and savings rates are perennially low or insignificant, there should be greater reason to open up the market to external investors. As an observation, the Philippines has had a bad track record of attracting investments amid the massive opening up of the market via financial liberalization policies.

 

The same contention should hold water for other countries. The USA at this moment needs fresh funds to the amount of trillions of dollars per annum coming from overseas to be able to bring it back to macro-economic wellness. There is no way that the USA will be semi-insular, more so autarchic, when its economy had clearly crashed.

 

However, attracting foreign investments doesn’t mean a perpetuation of trade liberalization  policies pertaining to investments and cross-border monetary flows. It’s got to do more with strengthening institutions and keeping macro-economic fundamentals at their most positive levels indicative of economic health and wellness.

 

Look at Malaysia’s previous experience for instance. As a response to the devastating effects of the financial meltdown in 1997, the state immediately instituted financial, monetary and capital control policies. They worked precisely because governance institutions and macro-economic fundamentals (particularly fiscal health) made it worthy to invest in the country, as risk levels were tremendously brought down and volatility ebbed.

 

Recently the Malaysian state decided to take down altogether the capital control policies as macro-economic wellness and financial volatilities were put under control. This is a clear case for flexibility in development policies: know when to institute regulations and deregulations well, without necessarily impeding or degrading the national interest whatsoever. I salute the grand patriarch of Malaysian nationalism for the matter, the venerable Mahathir Mohammad.

 

The contention for foreign investments culled from the New Nationalism article is shown entirely below.

 

Continuously open the market to external investors.

 

National savings continue to hover at a pathetically low rate of seventeen percent (17%), which is significant but is way below the minimum of thirty percent (30%) to render it as ‘critical mass’, like that of our neighbors’. The problem cannot be addressed sufficiently than through a continuing inflow of capital from external investors. Note that in today’s global context, the term ‘foreign capital’ has already lost its meaning, as the boundary between ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’ has been effectively erased. The cross-country partnering cum out-sourcing arrangements among diverse firms have become the norm of today’s business, rendering obsolete the previously sacrosanct notions of ‘domestic’ capital and ‘foreign’ direct investments. Not only that. Latest researches have verified that transnational corporations or TNCs now tend to create more values within their host countries and reinvest the profits locally than remit them back to their ‘home country’ (a term that has also begun to lost meaning).

 

This doesn’t mean though that such investors should be served ‘free lunch’, through very long regimes of tax havens or through spurious ‘strike-free zones’ (read: haven for wage freeze) which makes our laborers appear like wild jackals who need to be perpetually gagged. Some forms of valves (capital controls) should also be instituted, so that the capital investments and profits wouldn’t just flow out like hemorrhage the moment that the economy hits cyclical crisis. Surely, pro-active measures can be devised to let the said investors stay, more so for those that truly re-invest their ROI for their original and diversified business concerns, as well as to those that conduct dynamic R&D and truly transfer technology.

 

In today’s globalizing context, corporate ‘national champions’ have become obsolete. The  bygone era of ‘national champions’ can still be observed in the names of certain firms, such as in the names Philippine Airlines, Philippine Long Distance Telephone, or in Bank of America, American Express. Asset re-structuring is the norm, and large corporations are becoming rapidly globalized. Mergers and de-mergers are happening at rapidly ‘chaotic’ paces. The circumstances challenge investors/stockholders to quickly grasp the lesson of   ‘thriving on chaos’ or else their ventures would face bankruptcies and foreclosures as what befell many former large ventures, inclusive of former ‘national champions’.

 

The thought that “foreign capital might harm national interest” is simply passé and out-of-context, in as much as the term ‘foreign’ has lost its meaning save for the antiquarian Old Nationalists who regard foreign things as essentially dangerous (but are they not using foreign frameworks in their perceptions of foreign things?). Let the investors come in, recombine their assets with our domestic investors’, extend their stock participation beyond the forty percent (40%) constitutional limit. Note that “our very own” big corporations are participating in ‘foreign’ countries, and their levels of investment participation go beyond forty percent (40%). It is high time that we readjust our thinking about the matter.

FAIR TRADE AND THE NATION-STATE

April 28, 2008

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Writ 23 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

In a recently written book by me titled Fair Trade and Food Security: Framework and Policy Architecture (Kaisampalad, 2004), I was able to gather clear evidences of the failures of free trade policies. Not only free trade but the whole policy regime of economic liberalization—that paved the way to globalization—had downgrading effects on our currency, agriculture, and industry here in my home country.

 

I argued right then for a policy reform in the direction of fair trade. The totality of policy change should be the re-crafting of the entire policy architecture, which if commensurately followed can become fitful guides for foreign policy and diplomacy.

 

In the light of the massive acceptance of liberalization policy frameworks in the 80s and 90s, I gave their advocates a chance to prove the potency of free trade and laissez faire in general. In the long run, free trade is unsustainable, and can only be perpetuated, as shown by the experiences of the previous centuries, by imperialism.

 

Autarchy, which was experimented in the Hapsburg empire, is more of a hermitage option that can work only if, as the Hapsburg had fittingly shown, the domain for intra-trade exchange and distribution is large enough. The option, even for nationalist economics, is for the conduct of overseas trade. But whether his has to be a free trade option is contentious.

 

The British Empire, which calls itself by the euphemy British Commonwealth of Nations, is still alive today. That empire was built precisely because it is the only way by which Great Britain, or England, can sustain its trading edge through the power of the ‘stick’. But this empire, the last among the ancien regime formations, is now crumbling, and cannot hold water for long as the member nations continue to assert their sovereignty.

 

Globalization based on free trade had already crumbled, as we can see. Unless there is another perception out there. It had failed. What I am arguing for now is that globalization can succeed only if it takes into consideration the interests of nations and marginal sectors within them rather than be based on the interests of a chosen few of financier oligarchs and their TNCs.

 

The contention from the article New Nationalism is shown en toto below.

 

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

 

In the international trade scene, the President had declared it emphatically: “no to unbridled free trade!” Fair trade should be the game in trade, not free trade. This does not mean a full return to protectionism, which proved counterproductive in the past. Protectionism had only served rent-seekers, who did not engage in full-scale S&T innovations that could have propelled us to advance in product development, achieving world-class standards in many of our articles of industry & trade quite early. Returning to a regime of protectionism is surely out of the question.

 

Permit articles of imports to come in, employ this strategy to meet ‘commodity security’ and keep prices at competitive rates, while minimizing the possibility of shocks. This should also challenge domestic market players to become more competitive, precisely by engaging in dynamic research & development or R&D, resulting to higher-level product innovations (intended for the domestic market). Meanwhile, continue to institute a regime of ‘safety nets’ and strengthen those that have already been erected. However, where ‘infantile enterprises’ are barely out of the take-off stage, e.g. petrochemicals and upstream steel, provide certain tariff protection, but set limits up to that point when dynamic R & D have made production more cost-efficient, permitting thereafter competitiveness in both the domestic and global market. The latest move of government to provide the greatest incentives on upstream steel, for instance, is a right move, as it will entice market forces to install our long-delayed integrated steelworks.