Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010

Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010
Finalist for society, politics, history blogs



Saturday, November 10, 2007


By: Erle Frayne D. Argonza

[Writ: August 2004, Quezon City, MetroManila. See also:]


This paper echoes the emerging discourse referred to as New Nationalism. No less than the Philippines’ President, Her Excellency G. M. Arroyo, amplified the discourse during her pre-victory speeches. 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.


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.


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.


Strong nation can thrive & grow amid globalization.

The nation can continue to exist, even become strengthened, while it sails deep into the middle of the ocean of globalization. The two are not necessarily contradictory. Nationhood can continuously be pursued, patriotism can move ahead while paddling astride the powerful waves of globalization. For as earlier stated, globalization holds the promise of growth through the vast opportunities it has opened. Nations must strive to concur cooperation with other nations to extend the scope and limits of the opportunities, while at the same time build internal opportunities to further optimize inducements for investments.

Just recently, our entrepreneurs and professionals made waves through the international awards they respectively received, such as Tan Caktiong (top entrepreneur) and F. Palafox (the only ASEAN architect to make it to the world’s Top 200 architects), signifying the high level of competitiveness our compatriots are capable of achieving. Such sterling achievements surely inspire us to continue to strengthen nationhood and to forge new areas of cooperation and growth-inducing endeavors. While forces exist that work to tear the nation asunder, forces are likewise growing that lead to the nation’s strengthening. We should all work hard to make sure that the latter forces prevail, while neutralizing and diminishing the potencies of those forces that destroy nationhood.

Make room for value-based & integrated frameworks.

Not only should we look up to the West for paradigms with which to construct frameworks and models of growth & development. We should also welcome the initiatives of our emerging thinkers and practitioner-gurus to integrate the Eastern paradigms in their conceptualizations, system designs and related matters. These efforts will fortify our understanding of economics, Philippine-style, in as much as we are a people forged in the cultural smelters of both Eastern and Western civilizations.

Among civil society groups, the modeling of entrepreneurship and social enterprises based on integrated East-West paradigms have been demonstrated with success and clarity. We should welcome such perspectives, and do our share of the task to transport such frameworks from the margins to the mainstream of national consciousness. The resultant frameworks are often value-based in form, though they do not necessarily shun scientistic/empiricist treatment of economic problems. The common theme among such frameworks is synergy: an interconnection among various ‘social enterprises’ and NGOs reaching a far broader scale, resulting to a broad movement. This I am well aware of, having immersed myself in civil society for a long time in the past.

Go back to basic needs.

“Spend for your needs but save as much as you can!” would be an apt idiom that could encapsulate the need to build up national savings within the context of an increasingly consumer-driven economy. It is argued that moderate consumption would be a most fitting behavior in today’s context, while under-consumption and over-consumption are out as they could burn us all out in the process. Consumption saved the day for us in the aftermath of the Asian crisis in 1997, so there is no reason to be morally repulsive about consumerism—provided that it should be a moderated consumerism. Low consumerism brings us back to export-driven strategies, our aggregated wealth production subjected to the vagaries of external markets that are beyond our control; high consumerism, contributing further to high debt levels, as the credit card culture entice people to acquire more articles of consumption through debts, perennially driving our economy to ‘bubble bursts’.

The emerging situation should have taught our market players the appropriate lessons at this time. The era of omnipresent and omnipotent markets—for goods of relatively ageless utility, stored in large inventories—is now a foregone era. What we have now is fragmented markets (chaos economics explains this well; see Tom Peters’ works), so the adjustment would be in the form of market niches. Market players should veer away from storing large inventories of a broad array of products, as obsolescence and changing consumer taste undermine the profit-gaining side of such a practice. Rather, they should be sensitive to emerging demands, and customize services and/or tangible goods based on such demands. We Filipinos particularly change taste so often, “madaling magsawa” as we say it in the vernacular. Which means that fixed products, based on fixed ideas, are simply out of context and out-of-date, and must be reformulated towards more flexible product mixes matrixed with constantly emerging ideas.

On a macro-scale, there is the continuing need to ensure ‘food security’ and its expression in other sectors as well. We should continue to be sensitive to the needs of the larger economy, such as the need for capital goods. We should design ‘vital & strategic commodity security’ frameworks and policies through a combination of domestic production of such goods as well as importation strategies. The continuing absence of strategic industries such as integrated steel could prove degenerative for development efforts such as it has done to our country, while completely shutting us off the international markets for some other goods could likewise be deleterious in the long run since domestic producers would be exercising rent-seeking, pricing articles way beyond five hundred percent (500%) of their opportunity costs as amply demonstrated by industrial chemicals (before the country began importing from China). As current experiments in grain & livestock management show, with appreciable success, the strategy should be to combine domestically produced goods with imported articles, the proper mix of which should be the subject of continuing eco-scanning and constant studies. In the end, all of our individual, community and national needs will be met, building stability and security amid a ‘chaotic’ or turbulent global condition.

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

The failure of neo-liberal policy regimes does not mean that the state should go back to a full interventionist role, performing a guardian regulator and ‘provider’ for all sorts of services. The problem with the excessive ‘provider’ role is that it had (a) bred rent-seeking on a massive scale among market players, (b) reinforced dependence among grassroots folks who have since been always expecting for a ‘Santa Claus state’ to provide abundant candies, (c) produced new forms of rent-seeking, with civil society groups serving as the beneficiaries, and (d) further reinforced graft practices in both the public and private sectors. Thus, the ‘provider state’ further reinforced the patron-client relations in the various spheres of life (‘feudalism’ is the term used by Maoists for clientelism), consequently dragging all of our development efforts into a turtle-paced sojourn.

In the new intervention mode, the state, armed with a leaner organization and trimmed down budgetary purse, performs a superb catalytic role. It engages various stakeholders in the growth & development efforts, challenges them to directly embark on development pursuits, and demonstrates unto them how welfare can be accessed to through alternative means other than through the state’s baskets. As the state continuously engages the stakeholders through dialogue and cooperation, institutions will also become strengthened along the way. The state will gain its esteem as an ‘activist state’, while at the same time receive acclaim as a truly ‘modernizing state’ as it propels society gradually away from clientelism towards a context marked by rule-based (modern) institutions, citizenry and dynamic/autonomous constituencies.

However, within a transition period from ‘maximum provider’ to ‘maximum enabler,’ the state should continue to perform a provider role in such areas as education, health and such other human development concerns that are, in the main, crucial to building national wealth. Combining state regulations and at the same time giving ‘fiscal autonomy’ in tertiary education and vocational-technical level would remain to be a fitful strategy of ‘minimal enabler’. A similar strategy will have to be applied to some other economic sectors to be able to advance gender equity, by recognizing rights of marginalized gender to education, employment, representation in managerial positions and other related concerns.

Promote synergy with civil society in the development path.

In the old formulations, development was an exclusive endeavor of state and market players. That is, the directions of development were largely the handiworks of political, bureaucratic and corporate elites. There should be an admission that this structural formulation was a factor in generating the crisis-level ailments of mass poverty, large-scale unemployment, low wages, sluggish growth and dependence. So why retain a formula that had failed us miserably?

The current context, where a dynamic and colossal civil society operates, points to the ever-growing recognition of the potent role of civil society in co-determining the compass of development. At the grassroots level, development efforts will be accelerated to a great extent by involving civil society formations acting as ‘social capital’ base, as studies have positively demonstrated (citations from Peter Evans’ works on ‘state-society synergy’). Insulating the state from grassroots folks, as the same studies have shown, have produced dismal if not tragic effects, e.g. India’s non-involvement of ‘social capital’ in the erection and maintenance of irrigation facilities resulted to program failure in the end.

Building and maintaining ecologically sound, clean cities can likewise be effected through the tri-partnership of state, civil society and market, as demonstrated by the Puerto Princesa case. Under the stewardship of the dynamic city mayor (Mr. Hagedorn), the tri-partnership was galvanized. Businesses have since been conscious of operating on clean technologies and environmental responsibilities, city streets sustain hygienic images, traffic is well managed as motorists exude discipline, and civil society groups constantly monitor the initiatives that saw their hands dipped into their (initiatives) making. All we need to do is replicate this same Puerto Princesan trilateral partnering at all level and in all communities to ensure better results for our development efforts.

The ‘state-society synergy’ in our country had just recently been appreciated and grasped by many state players. Being at its ‘take-off’ phase, it is understandable that synergy is only a lip-service among many state players, notably the local officials. State players still regard civil society groups with ambivalence, while civil society groups are suspicious of state players whose sincerity can only be as low as their Machiavellian propensities would dictate. Such local state players desire to subordinate civil society groups, and many politicians have constituted ‘government-initiated NGOs’ or GRINGOS as cases of non-authentic subordinated groups. On the other hand, local-level volunteer groups can at best perceive domestic politicians as ‘Santa Claus’ providers, and utilize them largely as gift-giving patrons. Strengthening state-society synergy has a long way to yet, but it is not exactly starting at ground zero in this country. It is, by and large, a core variable in developing citizenry and constituencies, and must be advanced beyond its current take-off phase.

People are the most important assets, revise accounting systems!

The prevailing mindset perceives assets in terms of physical assets (estates, chattel, monies). Ownership is then defined in terms of right to control and dispose of such assets. Wealth is computed in terms of the values, calibrated through price, created through the utilization of the physical assets. For a while, the classicists introduced the notion of ‘labor theory’ of value, premised upon the value-producing powers of labor. But the efforts of the classicists failed to get translated into acceptable accounting systems, as such systems have always been based on physical assets and prices.

Look at what is happening among various agencies, especially business firms: there is a lot of ‘pirating’ of people going on among them! Likewise are there efforts to retrieve those same people ‘pirated’ by competing agencies. The same event holds true for the state and NGO sectors: ‘piracy’ on grand scales! This phenomenon is a clear manifestation that people, not physical assets, are the most important of all in an organization. When an agency loses good personnel, the effect is instantly debilitating, a debilitation that can be offset only through the timely arrival of replacements who are as good as the ones who left. The converse is also true: when an agency needs people to shore up its output levels, ‘pirate’ high-achievers from other agencies most especially those who have “made a name” in the sector concerned. The piracy of people in the entertainment world is even more instructive in indicating to us the central import of people, not physicals, as value producers. We need not belabor the point that the ‘piracy’ strategy comes often in the form of higher pay scales and incentives.

That is why it pays so much to manage people well, and to design new organizational principles that would bring out the maximum potencies of people most specially the highly talented ones. Bureaucracies have become outdated dinosaurs, as ‘flat organizations’ have become the wave of the present: the new organizations make plenty of room for self-initiatives, resourcefulness and innovativeness by good staff. Bureaucracies, which follow from only two principles—vertical (hierarchy) and horizontal—can stifle innovativeness, as experiences have shown. The ‘task master’ mindset and ‘boss mentality’, as well as the excessive stress on routinary processes, have turned off many achiever personnel most specially the highly talented ones whose nature of work is ‘symbolic/analytic’ (to use Reich’s term). Today, new principles are emerging that are leading to a massive ‘re-engineering of the organization’, such as Total Quality Management or TQM, web organizational structure, team work principles and ‘human resource empowerment’.

Yet inspite of such revolutionary changes and explosion of amazingly appropriate principles about organizations and human resources, no changes are happening in the accounting systems that can correspondingly reproduce the organizational principles taking place. The only appreciable concept is that of GDP Purchasing Power Parity or PPP, which computes total income on the basis of purchasing power of local consumers relative to those of the world’s strongest economy. Using the GDP-PPP, the Philippines’ GDP stood at $379 Billions as of the end of 2003, with GDP-PPP per capita at around $4,600 more or less. (See The World Factbook, 2004, for such index reports.) But this indexing does not in any way address the accounting question raised here.

Should the notion of ‘human capital’ become popular, the accounting system should consequently follow. The notions of ownership would then change, indicating the revolutionary implications of the paradigm shift. Those pretending ‘radicals’ of the day, many of whom are steeped in 19th century socialist thought, tend to view the asset realm from the focal lenses of antiquated Victorian-era ownership concepts, and are no less conservative than the oligarchs they sordidly hate. They offer no radical solutions beyond changing (antiquated) asset ownership, strategies that eventually stifle innovativeness and human expression, as criminal Stalinist regimes have shown. New Nationalism must take on the challenge of presenting a far more revolutionary concept that can, in the end, contribute to evolving a strong base of ‘human capital’, ‘social capital’ and ‘strong nation’.

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

The ‘capitalist market’ (or simply ‘market’) is the haven of financial predators and market sharks, while the absence of market is the homestead of the rent-seeker and exclusively-privileged partocrat (single party bureaucrat). As the cases of the ‘mixed economies’ and that of China’s have demonstrated, the market impeccably performs a pivotal role in stimulating growth & development, and should not be wished away too soon. Rather, we should evolve a market that is not a ‘pure market’ in the classical sense.

As experiences world-wide have transparently indicated, leaving everything to the market redounds to: (a) diminished welfare, as indicated by low wages, low accessibility to social services, high unemployment, and massive exploitation of labor; (b) ecological disaster, indicated by environmental degradation, depleted natural resource base, destruction of indigenous communities and their natural habitats; (c) speculation in the capital and realty markets, leading to further instabilities and proneness to shocks, both internal and external; and, (d) lackluster product innovation due to low value given to S&T development, in societies where there is a lack of entrepreneurs, such as the Philippine case demonstrates.

The balance lies in developing a ‘social market’, where concern for private initiatives as well as for welfare are harmonized and balanced, while at the same time controlling speculation and optimizing conditions that induce innovations. Within the context of a social market, there should increasingly evolve ‘social enterprises’ or collectively-owned enterprises: cooperatives, people’s corporations, grammin, and other related types that are rising though still at an experimental phase. While private enterprises should continue to prevail, large-scale enterprises should begin to innovate on new physical asset-ownership schemes that would eventually see a large portion of the assets co-owned by ordinary folks and corporate employees. In the long run, the ‘social market’ will be a terrain where both wealth gaining and welfare providing functions will be fused exquisitely, signifying the end of state-induced welfare and the return of welfare functions to communities.

Continue to stimulate growth through the ‘physical economy’.

This writer strongly argues that the greatest driver of the economy must be the ‘physical economy’. By ‘physical economy’ we refer to the combination of (a) agriculture, (b) manufacturing, (c) infrastructure, (d) transport and (e) science & technology (S&T) whose results further induce ‘production possibilities’ in the sectors a-d. An economy that is prematurely driven by the service sector, growing at the expense of the physical economy, will create imbalances in the long run, failing in the end to meet the needs of the population. A premature service-driven economy would be subject to manipulations by predatory financiers, who would do everything to destroy the national currencies and consequently the physical economy of the nation as well. An economy driven by derivatives and every kind of speculative pursuit is a ‘virtual economy’ such as what has dominated the USA since the era of Reaganomics.

I would hazard the thesis that our national economy moved to a service-driven phase prematurely. Look at all the fiasco after our ‘physical economy’ had rapidly declined in GDP contributions since the early 1990s, as the service economy advanced in its stead! Relatedly, the over-hyped Ramos-era ‘Philippines 2000’ economy was largely a ‘bubble economy’ driven by speculation and portfolio capital, and was more in kinship with the ‘virtual economy’ than any other one. We have not fully recovered from the bursting of that bubble, even as we are now threatened with another bursting of sorts—of the debt bubble, leading to fiscal crisis.

It pays to learn our lessons well from out of the immediate past experiences. And the clear message sent forth is: get back to the physical economy and re-stimulate the concerned sectors, while simultaneously perfect those services where we have proved to be competitive, e.g. pre-need sector, retail, restaurant/f&b. We should also strive to learn some key lessons from other countries’ positive experiences such as China’s, whose economy continues to grow enormously, and grow precisely because it is the physical economy that primarily drives it up and lead it—at an enormously rapid rate—towards development maturity, permitting China to outpace the USA’s economy on or before 2014 (using GDP Purchasing Power Parity indexing).

Generate wealth from both external and domestic markets.

Various stakeholders in the past were divided along the question of what should be the driver of growth & development (demand-side discourse): the external, or internal market? The followers of the ‘externalists’ were the ones behind the export-oriented development strategy, whose rationalizations for massive exports were quite poor recycles of the mercantilist contention that wealth should be produced more from out of the external markets (colonies during the time of empires). The ‘internalists’ were the ones behind import-substitution strategies, whose rationalizations were poor photocopies of Keynesian demand-side formulations.

In today’s context, it is wiser to view both the external and domestic markets as synergistic spheres for accumulating national wealth and meeting head-on the demands for delivering welfare. The external market discourse can work only in circumstances where a domestic demand has failed to develop, which in our case was the pre-1990s economy. By the late 1990s, it was clear that a significant change had taken place on the demand side of our economy, as folks were buying a lot of articles of commerce at a time of crisis. The middle class population is rising relative to the entire population, whose households’ needs have become more differentiated and have leaped beyond the bounds of ‘rice-and-galunggong’ expenditures. Today, Filipino families purchase around fifty-three percentum (53%) of their household needs from supermarkets, malls and large retail centers, even as the wet markets and sari-sari stores are declining in importance. These changes are real, and we cannot be blind to them by continuing to harp on an export-driven growth.

We must then fast-track large-scale redistribution schemes, such as to witness the rise in purchasing powers of our own people. This cannot be done outright during the next three (3) years, as we face a fiscal dilemma of crisis proportions. But beyond 2007 lies new opportunity fields. The fiscal route to stabilization will have been solidly achieved by then, and the nation can embark on more ambitious endeavors aimed at increasing incomes, reducing unemployment and poverty and increasing domestic consumption.

As the domestic market catches up in stabilizing the economy and producing national wealth, stakeholders shouldn’t be remiss in improving the competitiveness of our export products. Our great advantage is that we have ample supplies of skilled labor, with wages still relatively low. The power sector is also quite rich in supply of electricity, even as new projects are now being planned to neutralize possible supply problems in the short run. Hopefully, power supply would stabilize and electricity cost would decrease, contributing thus to rendering our exportable articles more competitive enough. Save for capital goods and petroleum, large volumes of which our producers continue to import, the other factors of production are within our hands to control and manipulate, inclusive of rent and interest rate. It is hereby argued that, with such factors controllable enough, we can optimize conditions for rendering our exportable articles maximally competitive and continue to permit the external market to be a source of substantial wealth. What more if we produce all of our essential capital goods, thus further bringing down the cost of production, given that the price of other factor inputs also go down?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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’.


What should the nation do to the oligarchs? Remember that the constitution and strengthening of the nation-state, as clearly indicated by historical accounts, involved the class factor, to wit: the various middle and lower classes forged a united front to overthrow the trilateral alliance of the monarch-nobility-priesthood. Nationhood was and will always be a struggle against predatory oligarchs, as exemplified by the violent overthrow of the gentry (monarchy, priesthood/Church, nobility) to be able to advance the gains of the French Revolution. Likewise did the socialist revolutions in various countries resulted to the strengthening of the nation-state, a strengthening that was achieved precisely through the institutional decapitation of the oligarchy, the physical elimination of many of its members and the seizure of their assets.

In the Philippine case, the oligarchy is represented by (a) the landlord-capitalist oligarchs and (b) the Catholic Church. The landlord-capitalists were the products of the commercial era of the 19th century up through the industrializing era of 20th centry, while the oligarchic Church exists as a carry-over from the feudal Hispanic era. On the one hand, the landlord-capitalists have begun to preach ‘corporate social responsibility’ coupled with Santa Claus dole-outs handed over to ‘shirtless folks’, many of whom are shanty residents. On the other hand, the Church has been preaching a ‘preferential option for the poor’ as mandated by the post-Vatican II doctrines, coupled with ‘basic ecclesial organizing’ among communities aimed at contributing to ‘social capital’ and empowerment. The question is, do such sets of actions coming from the oligarchy suffice to redistribute wealth and contribute to poverty alleviation?

The maximalist solution is the one offered by Old Nationalism as a response to the question. The domestic Bolsheviks, whom we count among nationalists in the Philippine setting, are particularly hot on seizing the assets of the landlord-capitalists (‘comprador class’ as the Maoists labeled them collectively) and declaring these under state control. But the same (old) nationalists are silent about Church wealth, which is so enormous it is clear that Church oligarchism is a factor contributing to the ailments of our society. Is it because the Church had contributed immensely to the growth of the Left, by way of the politicization of many bishops, clergy, religious and ministers along the Maoist/Marxist way, and by the utilization of Church convents for such purposes? So now it seems that a Left seizure of power, if ever, is a surefire guarantee for perpetuating Church oligarchism, while landlord-capitalist wealth gets seized and declared as state assets, if not as Communist Party assets.

Neo-nationalism may very well consider the minimalist solution to the question. Sequestering assets by the large-scale and jailing/exterminating oligarchs may only be fruitful in the short-run. But if the value-base of possessive individualism, greed and predatory practices, including usury and rent-seeking, are not eradicated, oligarchs will again appear in the future, thus returning us all to where we were before, as billionaire oligarchs are now appearing by the dozens in post-Bolshevik Russia. “If you can’t beat them, join them!” is likewise unsound, as this is tantamount to capitulation to oligarchism. The minimalist way begins by declaring that oligarchs, when presented with sound options, can participate in the development game. With the strengthening of institutions, they will also begin to exhibit more accountability and responsibility, by first exhibiting truthfulness in their tax declarations and payments, henceforth fattening the public purse no end.

The structural landscape is now changing, and oligarchs are compelled by the exigencies of the times to recognize the winds of change. Gone were the days when oligarchs were as powerful as Zeus and His Olympian Entourage who can never be prosecuted for their crimes, inclusive of crimes of extracting unjust rent from people’s purses without public consent. As the Meralco case demonstrates, erring oligarchs do go punished, or at least the erring firm cannot just engage in criminal acts without being penalized. When civil society is strong and every kind of public interest group vigilantly watches the oligarchs’ acts with zeal, the Olympian stance of greedy oligarchs receive stunning blows by way of court litigations. Meanwhile, oligarchs in localities who commit heinous crimes, such as that of a former mayor in Southern Luzon, got jailed for such crimes, something that was unimaginable in the past. Institutions of justice are now galvanizing, thanks in part to a vigilant civil society and the synergy concurred by the state with it.

I would now boldly declare a forecast that in the long run, transcendent values would permeate the private sphere so greatly, resulting to greater compassion and the return to simple lifestyles. Eventually, the oligarchs will voluntarily share an immense portion of their wealth to the people, through stock sharing schemes, donating large stockholdings to social enterprises, and funding the equity components or even the working capital of social enterprise ventures. Other more exemplary acts will be in the offing too, benign acts that are truly redistributive and not just rhetorical clichés of ‘corporate citizenship’.

Correspondingly, a more radical organizational culture will crystallize, such that, during times of crisis, Big Business will no longer have to downsize in order to continue to gain profits and declare dividends. Rather, the remedial step will be to cut down on the working hours and temporarily cut down on wages and pay scales, so that no one gets unemployed in the process. That is because the personnel are also co-owners of the physical assets. Furthermore, as already suggested earlier, new accounting systems will arise that will more than highlight human assets as the most important assets in the agency, thus eradicating notions of downsizing or expelling people during crisis periods. The ‘corporate citizen’ will therefore become a living organism, unlike today when the concept is simply a strategy to evade taxes by diverting profits to corporate foundations.

Should we follow the Bolshevik way, it means that eventually the local Bolsheviks would become the new oligarchs. The Communist Party becomes the all-powerful economic Santa Claus owning vast assets, while the branches of government controlled by the Party, such as the army and parliament, will also respectively own vast assets, utilized for earning profits that will fatten the purses not only of the said organizations but of their CEOs’ as well. And when market reforms will be undertaken as Bolshevik dirigism can no longer be sustained, new capitalist-landlord oligarchs will emerge, blessed by the all-powerful partocrats with the mandate to “let a thousand millionaires bloom!” As the party oligarchy and the new landlord-capitalists enrich their purses, multitudes will continue to live the lives of paupers, homeless and jobless, cared by no one other than by howling winds of uncertainties and stray dogs who keep them company. Surely, this maximalist route is not the most pro-active route to counterveil against oligarchism, but is in fact a most reactionary route, the stuff of outdated Victorian-era vampire formulas of sucking rent from out of the toiling folks.

As to the Church assets, which will be luckily retained in the advent of a delusional Bolshevik victory, the key is the Bishopric. Bishops are the power-wielders of the Church, and are necessarily the biggest obstacles to change within the Church. “In the long run, we shall all be dead!” declared Keynes than, and such will be the state of the bishops: the Old World bishops will be dead soon, as new generation bishops take their place. Not only are the same Old World bishops—due precisely to their feudalistic, sexist and Victorian-era prudish (pretending) mindsets—the stewards of the vast assets of the Church, their ranks are also replete with narratives of sexual misconduct, corruption and every type of scandalous misconducts from cryptic figures. Hopefully, the new generation bishops will go beyond mouthing ‘preferential option’ discourses to uplift the poor, and move soon enough to redistribute the vast Church assets by proclaiming their utilization for developmental purposes. Such assets can be used to collateralize credit as well as for loans that should be offered at very low interest rates, thus converting the Church into a ‘white knight’ at last.

Meanwhile, the Old Nationalists who are still waving the insurrectionary flag can still recoup by joining the legal stream, as some entrenched leaders of communist front organizations are now doing. Their party groups can join political society, while their mass movements and NGOs will continue to operate as civil society groups, and become part, hopefully, of those forces that will popularize to our people the ‘rule of law’ and ‘rule of reason’, in other words become authentic modernizing forces. Such is a very welcome move by the insurrectos, and is in fact the forecast pathway for the concerned rebel forces.


This paper now ends with a note on the prospects of neo-nationalism making waves. Note that Old Nationalism is the dominant discourse within the nationalist streams, and this fact is fully recognized in this paper. Old Nationalists will definitely have a hard time digesting the premises and contentions presented in this article. Being anchored on Western discourses, secular and materialistic to the extremes, the said articulators will have none of neo-nationalism save for viewing it as another exotic fad that will soon fade away. This is understandable. “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks!” goes the idiom, and this holds true in every sphere of human endeavor.

But one thing is sure at this juncture: New Nationalism is germinating right at the very center of state power, as the President herself expressed her subscription to and advancement of the new discourse. Surely, a coterie of like minds are gravitating around her, who are looking for an alternative to the neo-liberal frameworks that sorely failed, but who nonetheless find the extremist dirigism of Old Nationalism passé and repulsive. GMA’s reaching the helm of power signifies that nationalism has finally won amid over a century of struggle, as patriots of diverse ideological orientation won the previous electoral rounds nationwide. But a new phase of nationhood is coming into being, an evolving context that demands a corresponding new discourse to defend it and root it firmly.

Being one among those who strongly desire for an alternative framework, I am inclined to think that many potential articulators are waiting in the watersheds of civil society, political parties and state bureaucracy for the new discourse. Many of them began with the Old Nationalist frame but now find the old frame dilapidated and requiring gross recasting or replacement. My forecast is that it will take just about a minimal work to concur a synergy of efforts among these stakeholders. The moment that the synergy commences and gains momentum, neo-nationalism will quickly move into the mainstream, engulfing civil society, political parties and the state like wildfire. It may even serve as the new inspirational light of the business sector. And, who knows, maybe even church stakeholders, notably the bishops, would regard neo-nationalism as life-giving elixir-in-a-bottle floating amid wild seas intoxicated with every kind of antiquated ideological frames that have become inimical to national growth.

Such is the enormous prospect of neo-nationalist discourse gaining centerfold, that even the neo-liberal advocates might follow suit, taking its cue from the bandwagon effect of the new discourse that may take place in just about a couple of years from its inception. The neo-liberals are under fierce attack from everywhere, and are on the retreat, and the only graceful retreat for them is to find common grounds with the new discourse, even if they may not embrace the discourse entirely. After all, the (new) discourse does not seek to destroy the market, that it is inclusive as it appreciates the role of various stakeholders in the development game, from paupers and vagabonds to gentry and capitalists. The strength of the discourse lies precisely in this inclusiveness, a strength that makes it worth applying in the practical world.

1 comment:

Erle Argonza said...


Prof. Erle Frayne D. Argonza / Guru Ra

Felicitous greetings to you all!

I hereby extend my most heartfelt gratitude to enthused readers and fellow writers who appreciated my notes about social life, wisdom and arts.

Just about three (3) years ago, there was very little information about my person on cyberspace. Today, as I’ve spread my messages of Light and hope to all of the corners of the globe via the blogs and social networks, many enthused souls responded through reading, exchanges of notes, and citations of my works. Finally, after your appreciation and support of my cyber-crusade, information about me on cyberspace increased by gigantic strides.

Special thanks to the following online news, magazines and portals for citing my notes as among the top blogs on cyberspace:


Thanks too to the following sites that have cited, discussed and debated on various notes of mine about a diversity of topics and themes:

Maraming salamat! Thank you very much! Love & Light!

September 2010